Public safety taxes voted down


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Originally Posted Online: March 18, 2014, 10:50 pm
Last Updated: March 18, 2014, 11:30 pm
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By Eric Timmons, etimmons@qconline.com

Proposed public safety sales tax increases went down in flames in Henry and Rock Island counties on Tuesday, leaving county officials warning of jobs losses and cutbacks.

In Rock Island County, a proposed quarter cent sales tax to fund the sheriff's department was rejected by 70 percent of voters, with 93 percent of precincts reporting.

In Henry County, with all precincts reporting, 78.5 percent of voters rejected a proposed half-percent sales tax increase to support public safety.

In both counties, the sheriff's departments are the most costly to county government.

Rock Island County Finance Committee Chairman Don Jacobs, D-East Moline, was a proponent of the quarter cent sales tax increase, which would have generated around $3.7 million.

He said that, without the revenue from the new tax, the county will have to make deep cuts that will hurt taxpayers and city governments in Rock Island County.

"We collect their fines and we jail their prisoners," he said of the municipal governments. "There's going to have be cutbacks of 10 to 12 percent right across the board." Rock Island County is struggling financially, according to Mr. Jacobs, because of falling property tax revenue and reduced state funding.

Rock Island Sheriff Jeff Boyd had opposed the tax, saying he feared it would result in a funds shift that would leave him no net increase.

In Henry County, a proposal to raise the sales tax also took a drubbing and left Sheriff Jim Padilla — who also had opposed the tax — worried about funding. The tax would have generated an estimated $1.7 million for the sheriff's department which has an annual budget of around $5.3 million.

Sheriff Padilla, a Republican, suggested the failed referendum could mean job losses.

"My concern is that it could equal the loss of some staff that we can't afford to lose," he said. The sheriff added he thought there was no real campaign in favor of the tax increase.

Henry County Board chairman Tim Wells, a Republican, said it wasn't the board's role to promote the tax increase.

"It sounds like the voters have spoken three to one against it," he said. "I suppose we better understand what the voters are telling us."

Mr. Wells said he wasn't sure what impact the vote would have, but he said union negotiations with the sheriff's deputies are approaching in the summer.





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