Voters OK two tax increases
Voters in Franklin County on Tuesday approved two taxes that officials proposed to pay for building and operating a new 92-bed jail.
With 39 of 39 precincts reporting, the final but unofficial vote total on a 0.375 percent sales tax was:
For .......................... 1,346 Against ..................... 658
The final but unofficial vote total on a 0.125 percent sales tax was:
For ........................... 1,318 Against ..................... 689
County Judge Rickey Bowman and Sheriff Anthony Boen said they were
pleased that the tax proposals passed and that they passed by such a large margin. Bowman said he was impressed that more than 2,000 people turned out for the special election.
“It’s hard to get excited about paying more taxes, but it was needed and the people knew it was needed,” Bowman said.
County officials proposed the 0.375 percent sales tax to pay off capital improvement bonds that would be sold to raise up to $9 million to build the 92-inmate-capacity jail and sheriff’s office on county-owned land on Airport Road near Interstate 40 in north Ozark. The tax will expire when the bonds are paid off in about 17 years.
The 0.125 percent sales tax proposed by the Quorum Court will generate an estimated $123,000 a year for the county, which will be used for additional operating expenses to run the larger jail.
County Clerk DeAnna Schmalz said 768 votes were cast early in the week before Tuesday’s election, with 200 on Monday alone. She said Franklin County has 9,707 registered voters.
The special election in Franklin County was one of the first in the state since reinstatement of a law requiring voters to show identification before being allowed to vote. Schmalz said a few people complained during early voting about having to show identification, but only two cast provisional votes.
Schmalz attributed that high level of compliance to the widespread publicity about the law throughout Franklin County. She said she went on the radio to talk about the requirements of the law, and articles had been published about it in area newspapers.
With passage of the tax increases, county officials can replace the 44-year-old jail that has a capacity of 26 prisoners but often holds more than 40.
The 5th Judicial Circuit Criminal Detention Facilities Review Committee has found that the county jail has violated state jail standards for years. In a 2016 inspection report, the commission found 14 violations, among them insufficient jail staffing, inability to separate inmates by classification, insufficient cell space, and too little space for security equipment and cleaning supplies.
Boen, who gave tours to highlight the jail’s poor condition leading up to the election, has said the jail is not safe for prisoners or jail staff members.
Before Tuesday’s election, officials said that without a new jail, the county might have had to convert the lockup to a facility that could hold prisoners for only 24 hours. Franklin County would have had to pay another county to house its prisoners, and the sheriff’s office would have had to bear the cost for its inmates’ medical needs and of transporting them back and forth to the county for court. Boen and Bowman said having to house county prisoners in another county would have cost more than the county could afford.
With passage of the tax increases, county officials can replace the 44-yearold jail that has a capacity of 26 prisoners but often holds more than 40.