On Tuesday, April 5, citizens of Texas County voted in favor of a 3/8-cent sales tax to benefit the Texas County Sheriff’s Department.
In a question-and-answer format, Sheriff Scott Lindsey shares information and views with regard to the passing of the tax and how the new funding will impact the agency.
•How do you feel about it and what does it mean to the TCSD?
Next to trying to earn the trust of the citizens after a rough stretch in the history of the sheriff’s office, I think the passing of the law enforcement sales tax is the most significant thing that has happened during my tenure thus far as sheriff. The fact that we have a source of local revenue to fund county law enforcement for the first time in 177 years is a tremendous opportunity and I am very grateful for the opportunity to oversee the chance to implement both new goals and improve on the hard work my deputies have already put in.
•Why is this new funding necessary?
As we released information about the ballot issue, I tried very hard to be positive and talk about the needs without presenting a doom or gloom outlook.
Over the years when I considered various tax issues, I appreciated when officials talked about the need and what could be achieved and not threats of no services. I was hesitant to seek tax money from our citizens unless I felt there was not another option. The truth is, without this tax the county risked losing almost the entire staff of the Texas County Jail. There was simply not enough revenue coming into the county to pay a competitive wage and retain staff.
•How soon will the department begin to benefit from it?
Per the Missouri Department of Revenue the sales tax should start the second quarter after the election, so this fall as far as revenue coming in and then we can plan to implement changes and goals in the 2023 budget.
It does have an immediate impact on the morale of current and prospective employees, knowing that there is a plan and security for the future.
•What are some of the main plans for the funding?
The bulk of the revenue will go to salary for deputies and jailers (approximately 70% of the budgeted amount) to address goal No. 1: Pay a competitive wage that attracts and keeps experienced deputies and jailers. The No. 2 goal is to provide better service and reduce response time to calls. See next answer for more detail on that. The No. 3 goal is better training for deputies and jailers. Jailers suffer the most from a lack of training because they have not been to a law enforcement academy and are leaning on job. Our deputies and jailers both need the resources (funding and supplies) to learn and continue their education; the TCSD has been for many years just meeting the minimum requirements set by the state. I want to push beyond that and see our personnel have the tools and education to do the job to the best of their current ability and add new skills.
All three of these goals are linked together. It starts with filling open spots and having enough staff to answer calls and fill shifts to allow the time for training and not losing the people we have already trained.
•How many deputies do you think you’ll ultimately end up with (in the relatively near future)?
As of this moment we are authorized 10 patrol deputies – a recent hire put our department at nine. I think it is reasonable to think with a bright future we can begin to recruit for the open spot right away and see what interest is out there to get to a full staff. As we move into the 2023 budget, the priority will be to add two patrol deputies and an investigator. I consider patrol to be the “backbone” of any department, the front line employees answering emergency calls, so I want to make sure that squad is on solid ground as we add personnel.
There is a shortage of law enforcement officers all over, but I know Texas County is an interesting and desirable place to work, so I believe we can overcome that and attract qualified officers.
•Please add anything else you think is pertinent.
For many years, the sheriffs of Texas County have been scraping by with a bare minimum of equipment, personnel and wages for staff. I thank the citizens of Texas County for responding to the need for a permanent solution to this problem.
It has been my greatest honor in my law enforcement career to serve the people as sheriff. I look forward to guiding this office forward to accomplish the goals above and in the future.