Sales tax increase considered to bolster Winnebago County Sheriff’s staff – News – Rockford Register Star – Rockford, IL

Posted: August 15, 2015 by scaryhouse in Uncategorized

By Kevin Haas

Rockford Register Star

Posted Aug. 11, 2015 at 9:23 PM

Updated Aug 11, 2015 at 10:42 PM

ROCKFORD — Winnebago County Board members floated the idea of a sales tax increase Tuesday to pay for a $6.7 million plan to bolster staff and other resources for the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department.

The suggested tax increase divided County Board members, but they agreed that a priority must be placed on fighting crime and vowed to explore all avenues to fund Sheriff Gary Caruana’s budget proposal. The department had not suggested the tax increase and top brass say their request can be funded with existing revenue. County Board members are less confident because they already face a budget deficit of more than $2 million before factoring in the $6.7 million request.

The sales tax increase was offered as a solution Tuesday during a joint meeting of the County Board’s Finance and Public Safety committees. Ten County Board members — half of the board — were in attendance to hear Caruana pitch his proposal to increase his annual budget about 19 percent to $41.8 million, largely for additional staff and the equipment and training they’ll need. County Board member Burt Gerl suggested a small sales tax increase that would sunset after three to four years to bolster staff. His idea would require voter approval of a tax hike referendum. A public safety sales tax such as that would not apply to food, titled vehicles or medicine. Ted Biondo, chairman of the Finance Committee, said raising the public safety sales tax from 1 percent to 1.25 percent could help generate the cash needed but it would be a tough sell to the public.

“What do you tell your constituents who have lost tens of thousands of dollars on their homes in property value, but they still are paying higher property taxes than they did five years ago,” Biondo said.

A quarter-cent public safety sales tax increase would bring the overall sales tax rate to 8.5 percent in Rockford.

The Sheriff’s Department staff is down almost 16 percent since 2007, according to the department. Caruana wants to hire 14 deputies on patrol, three detectives and 26 corrections officers, including a sergeant and a lieutenant. The proposal includes additional Winnebago County 911 center staff previously approved by the County Board in March. Caruana also requests an additional evidence custodian, reserve deputies to provide security for the county’s newly obtained Ware building, two deputies to serve on the warrant-serving Fugitive Apprehension Unit, one deputy assigned to oversee accreditation standards, nine administrative clerks for the records department, a crime research coordinator and community policing deputy.

“The crime in this community is outrageous. People do not want to come out of their doors because of crime,” County Board member Gary Jury said. Jury, however, said the board has to prioritize its spending rather than raise taxes.

via Sales tax increase considered to bolster Winnebago County Sheriff’s staff – News – Rockford Register Star – Rockford, IL.

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