An effort to get a children’s services program established in Warren County will go to the voters for the second time in two years.
Following a request from the Warren County Resource Board, the county commission last Thursday voted to place a quarter-cent sales tax measure on the Nov. 6 ballot.
If approved, the quarter-cent sales tax is projected to generate approximately $600,000 annually.
A simple majority is needed for passage.
Funds generated from the sales tax would provide services such as drug/alcohol treatment and prevention, home- and school-based family intervention, counseling and teen pregnancy. The funds can only be used for county youths age 19 and younger.
The proposed quarter-cent sales tax measure, known as the Putting Kids First proposition, was soundly defeated 6,143-4,456 in November 2010.
Supporters of the children’s services fund were required to wait two years before the initiative could be placed on the ballot again.
Resource board members Rich Lagemann and Charlie Denn told commissioners last week they requested approval from the commission now so that they can spend the time until the November election educating voters about the need for the proposed sales tax initiative.
Though they largely blamed the economic downturn for the proposition’s defeat in 2010, they also acknowledged that more should have been done to inform voters about the local need for children’s services.
Lagemann, a former school administrator, noted that local youth still have an assortment of issues they are dealing with and it’s only getting worse.
“Basically where we’re at, things aren’t getting any better for our youth in Warren County,” Lagemann said. “We have the highest incidents in Warren County for dropout rate, for teenage pregnancy and alcohol and drug abuse dependency for our youth compared to counties surrounding us. We have the largest amount of kids with incidents with our police department. That gap is getting wider. It is getting worse because those counties have that tax working for them and it’s in their school systems.”
Supporters have previously said that with voter approval, agencies that have services available in neighboring counties would be able to expand those locally and be more accessible.
If passed, the funds will be overseen and managed by the resource board, which is comprised of county residents appointed by the county commission. The all-volunteer board would have the authority to allocate the funds where it deems necessary.
The board has been modeled after those created in nearby counties, such as St. Charles and Franklin counties, where a children’s service fund has already been established.
“Anytime we buy something in St. Charles or Franklin counties, we’re helping those kids and we can’t even help our own,” Lagemann said.
Commissioners said they weren’t stating support for or against the tax hike. The county will be responsible for expenses related to placing the issue on the ballot. That cost was not immediately known.
“ I acknowledge the importance of it and the need, but it’s the voters who will ultimately have to decide,” Northern District Commissioner Dan Hampson said.
Denn said the resource board is in the process of polling voters to determine their initial interest in the proposed measure. In 2010, a polling showed that 71 percent of more than 400 voters contacted were in favor of the tax. That figure jumped to 79 percent once the tax was further explained detailing how the funds would be used.
However, that support didn’t follow to the election booths.
Lagemann indicated that if the sales tax measure fails a second time, the resource board will be disbanded and that a third attempt will not be made by the current members.
Denn also commented that the resource board considered not proceeding with the proposed quarter-cent sales tax this year had the city of Warrenton’s half-cent initiative to construct an indoor recreation center passed in early April. However, that proposition was defeated 569-387. It was the second defeat for that proposition in 3 1/2 years.