The official ballot language for Franklin County’s Proposition P is nearing completion and is expected to be voted on next week.
After a meeting Tuesday with law enforcement, communications and city planners, the county commission is one step closer to tweaking the actual language the voters will see at the polls in April but there are still a few issues.
One point of contention again raised by former Sheriff Gary Toelke was to add language into the proposition that ensures the new law enforcement funding will not supplant any other current budgets at the county or municipalities.
Toelke, who has been tapped to lead the Proposition P charge to the public in coming weeks, said in his experience with other law enforcement sales taxes the exact wording is important.
“It can be a sticking point,” Toelke said. “It’s a concern people have. I think it’s going to hurt, how much, is anybody’s guess.”
On the point of supplanting existing funds, Second District Commissioner Dave Hinson said the commission has been advised not to include such language since it could hurt once the bonding process begins to pay for the jail renovation and expansion.
He assured Toelke the upcoming commission order approving and allowing the proposition to go on the ballot would ensure the money would go toward its intended use only.
The next issue raised by Toelke was the use of the term “public safety” being too broad and opening the door for being used for non-law enforcement purposes.
“Why can’t you just put in law enforcement?” Toelke asked. “Take out public safety and put in law enforcement.”
Toelke then produced ballot language he had written himself.
As the revisions to the ballot language were read and reread, County Counselor Mark Vincent was called into the meeting to give his thoughts on the revisions.
“Taking out ‘public safety’ ties the county’s hands,” Vincent said. “Is it legal? Yes. Is it advisable? I don’t think so. I think you are making a mistake for the future.”
Vincent explained the county and law enforcement need to consider what may happen long term.
“Ten years from now none of us know what is going to happen,” Vincent said. “You may need more money for ‘public safety’ instead of law enforcement.”
Presiding Commissioner John Griesheimer broke up the skiff between Vincent and Toelke by admitting the proposition is a long-term commitment and many in the room won’t be involved in the future.
“This is just like the Legislature, you can’t design a document that works for everybody,” Griesheimer said. “Let’s design it as best we can now, and they can deal with a different administration 10 years from now if changes are needed.”
When all was said and done, the “public safety” term was replaced with law enforcement.
Other changes included adding the county emergency operation center to a sentence referencing the jail and dispatching center and added the phrase “fund for but not limited to” in front of public safety services.
This inclusion would allow the county to use Proposition P funds to upgrade and add 911 towers and other communications infrastructure to areas of the county which are currently lacking.
The new language drawn up Tuesday will be emailed to all parties involved for one last look before the ballot language is officially approved at the Jan. 16 commission meeting, leaving just one week to file it with the county clerk for the April 3 ballot.