Ford County sheriff details uses for revenue from proposed tax increase

Ford County sheriff details uses for revenue from proposed tax increase

PAXTON — If the Ford County Board ends up establishing a quarter-cent sales tax to help fund public-safety expenses, Sheriff Mark Doran said the additional revenue would help his office maintain its aging fleet of squad vehicles, hire an additional dispatcher and stay within budget on costs such as employee overtime pay and inmate meals.

"I have a budget of a little over $2 million a year for the sheriff's office, and $1.5 million of that is salaries and benefits, so I'm really running the sheriff's office off of about $500,000 a year," Doran said. "The last couple of budgets, I've been very, very lean. I mean, I've had to cut it close for the last two years... especially when our job is one that you have no idea what is going to happen throughout the year. If you have a major investigation or something like that, that costs an awful lot of money."

If approved by the Ford County Board after November's election, the proposed tax increase would see the county's sales-tax rate go from 6.25 to 6.5 percent. The anticipated $220,000 in annual revenue would be used exclusively for public-safety purposes.

"The major thing I'm looking at is keeping squad cars," Doran said. "The biggest thing we're dealing with right now is we haven't been able to purchase squad cars for the last three or four years, and so our fleet's getting an awful lot of miles on it.

"The other thing is I would like to hire another dispatcher. That way, we would have three dispatchers — one for each shift," he said. "As it is right now, correctional officers who are trained also in dispatch are having to (fill in), and that puts us tight, especially in the summer time with vacations and sick leave."

Doran said the additional funds would also help cover budgeted overtime costs, as well as expenses for inmate meals.

"Our overtime budget this year is going to be cutting it close," he said. "I won't be over on the total amount allotted, but you still have to kind of cut and scrimp in certain line items so that you can make sure.

"And our food budget for the jail, I used to have $130,000 in there a year," he said, noting it was covered by income from the U.S. Marshals Service and Federal Bureau of Prisons for holding their prisoners at the jail. "But this year, I'm going to be over in that budget, as well. And obviously, we still have to feed these prisoners."

Doran said in recent years, income for holding federal prisoners has been used to cover costs in the county's general fund, not the his office's budget, which has put a strain on it.

"The U.S. Marshals and Bureau of Prisons is really what's been keeping Ford County afloat," Doran said. "It keeps the whole county afloat, as far as the county government goes."

Doran, though, is planning to use some of that income in upcoming years to supplement his budget. The county board's finance committee suggested Thursday that he earmark 20 percent of the federal income for vehicle purchases. Doran said the county got $33,000 in federal income last month alone, and he thinks the 20 percent figure "would be quite a help to us."

The committee made the suggestion after Doran said he expects the sheriff's office will need to buy "two or three" squad vehicles "in the next two years," as three already have more than 120,000 miles on them. He had earlier asked for $21,500 to pay for a 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe his office acquired from Gifford for use as a squad vehicle.

Doran said he understands the cash-strapped county needs to find ways to bring in more revenue, but he is not sure the public will support a sales-tax increase.

"Even though the economy's doing better, that's no guarantee" the support will be there, he said.

 

Will Brumleve is editor of the Ford County Record, a News-Gazette Media community newspaper. For more, visit fordcountyrecord.com.

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