Greene County voters will decide a ½-cent sales tax proposal in November in order to expand the jail facility and shore up justice system inefficiencies.
Commissioners approved the ballot item Monday. They say the new tax, if passed by voters, would generate more than $25.5 million a year. The measure would also expand other services like animal control and mental health.
In 2016, the Joint City-County Planning Task Force had unanimously recommended the commission ask voters to pass the ½-cent measure. The recommendation came after a more than year review of county finances.
In a news release, Presiding Commissioner Bob Cirtin said “Taxpayers trust us to keep them safe and improve their quality of life. We can be more effective in those efforts given adequate space in the jail, efficiency in the justice system and the other community services we hope to implement.”
Despite passing, Monday’s vote to place the ½-cent measure on the ballot was not unanimous. Of the three commission votes, Lincoln Hough instead favored a 3/8-cent sales tax plan he had proposed just last week. The trimmed down plan died for lack of a second.
After the meeting, Cirtin told the Springfield News-Leader, “There is no question that Commissioner Hough's dissent on the vote is going to make it more challenging to convince voters that we need their help.”
Hough said he felt his plan was more “palatable” for voters.
The Greene County news release notes its sales tax rate is a combined 1.25 percent. Part of the tax is distributed to area municipalities and the Springfield-Greene County Park Board. According to the county, an added reduction in property tax leaves the county with just 0.589 percent.
“Ultimately, voters will decide; and no matter the outcome, our community will feel the impact of that decision for years to come,” Cirtin said.
Putting the November decision before voters is part of an agreement the county and city of Springfield reached in July that ended a more than two-year dispute between them over jail use.
Earlier this month, commissioners also finalized a lease for a temporary jail structure that will allow space for 108 inmates. It will be located next to its existing jail, which has a capacity of 601 inmates, a number that has been exceeded for several years. Officials have been paying other counties to house those extra inmates.