Leader Blues

Thursday, July 27, 2006

TOP STORY>>Sherwood backs plan for jail tax

IN SHORT: Agreement would let Pulaski County use proposed quarter-cent sales levy to build and maintain more cells.

Leader staff writer

The Sherwood City Council voted Monday night to let the mayor sign an agreement with the county to use a proposed quarter-cent sales tax to build and maintain more jail space.

The Pulaski County Quorum Court has set a special election for Sept. 12 on the tax issue. Early voting starts Sept. 5. The county hopes it will pass and bring in about $18 million a year.

The county currently budgets $16.8 million per year for jail operation. The new tax would increase the budget to about $34 million.

The sales tax would give the county enough money to quickly build or reopen space to house 1,618 inmates. Currently the jail can only house 880 prisoners.

The will cost the county about $100,000 to conduct the special election.

Sherwood joins Jacksonville, which passed a similar resolution Thursday. All eight cities within Pulaski County either have or are expected to approve the resolution, which would allow the county to keep all the money collected from the proposed sales tax.

Sherwood Bill Har-mon told the council that the resolution the council was passing would allow the mayor to enter into an inter-local agreement with the county.

He said the agreement would allow the county to keep the sales tax money, if it passes, provided the money is used only for the purposes of expanding and maintaining the jail.

“State law says that unless all the cities in a county agree to do otherwise, any county tax must be divided proportionately between the county and the cities,” he explained.

Harmon also said the agreement would require the county to continue to budget what they have this year for jail operations each and every year forward, on top of what the tax brings in.

“The agreement will also release cities from paying for jail support,” Harmon said.

Sherwood pays $98,000 a year and Jacksonville pays $125,000.

“That’s $98,000 we can use on other things,” Harmon said. “With a $13 million annual budget, that money won’t make a big difference, but it will allow us to loose our belts some.”

The resolution passed unanimously. Sherwood resident Tom Brooks asked the council to take it a step further and come up with a second resolution spe-cifically support the tax and push residents to vote for it.

“A lot of dangerous people will stay on the loose if we don’t pass this tax. The city and civic clubs need to push for the tax,” Brooks said.

The council took no action on the idea. In other council business:

- The council voted to condemn a house at 209 Cherrywood as a “public nuisance” and gave the owners 30 days to tear it down or bring it up to code. The council’s resolution called the vacant house “unfit for human habitation.”

- Alderman Sheilaa Sulcer told the council that the city’s Fourth of July festivities at Sherwood Forest were a great success and about 6,000 people attended. “We could not have done it without the help of all the volunteers,” she said.

- The council approved the rezoning of 107 Audubon Cove from single-family homes (R-1) to duplexes (R-2) at request of owner property owner.