A countywide intiative on the Nov. 6 ballot is calling for a tax increase to develop a fund to help families facing tough issues.
Proposition K, or Prop K for Kids, calls for a quarter-cent sales tax in Warren County that proponents said will generate about $600,000 a year.
The revenue would go to provide family and youth services such as temporary shelters, respite care for children and families in crisis, services to unwed mothers and teenage parents, crisis intervention, outpatient drug and psychiatric treatment, transitional living services, prevention and counseling services and home and community based intervention services.
Rich Lagemann, chairman of the Prop K for Kids campaign, said he and co-chair Charlie Denn have researched the surrounding counties, such as Lincoln, St. Charles and Franklin, that have passed a like issue and the results have been favorable.
In St. Charles County, statistics show that there has been an 8.8 percent drop in teen pregnancy, a 23.7 percent drop in child abuse (up to 2009), a 27.2 percent drop in teen runaways, a 40.3 percent drop in juvenile status offenses and a 56.3 percent drop in juvenile delinquency offenses.
In addition, the graduation rates in that county have increased by 3.1 percent. These statistics come with a population increase of 27 percent since 2005.
“They are able to provide services and treat children that need help,” he said. “They have seen a lot of positive improvements. I firmly believe that a quarter-cent sales tax is an appropriate balance of responsibilities and that the children of Warren County deserve the same opportunities for well-being as the children in neighboring counties.”
Lagemann said in a report provided to the Warren County Resource Board in 2010 that studied the county’s current situation, only one in 10 areas eligible for funding was being adequately provided for and that was home and community based services. The county’s two school districts’ Parents as Teachers programs were cited as meeting some of this need.
“Failure to provide children with the services they need puts the future of the community at risk,” he said.
A similar proposition was put on the ballot in Warren County two years ago, but failed by about 1,600 votes. A group of citizens, which included mostly local business owners, had formed a coalition they called “Citizens Against Tax Abuse.”
The group handed out fliers and papered neighborhoods with signs stating that citizens are “taxed enough.”
Rodney Haupt, a local businessman, said the group is still out there and will become more vocal as the election draws closer.
“It’s the same thing, but just packaged differently,” he said of Prop K. “It’s a tax that goes on forever and we can’t do that. This is a time when folks are strapped for money and we’re adding more to it. No economist is going to say a raise in taxes in a bad economy is good. They say things are getting better, but it hasn’t trickled down to Warren County yet.”
Haupt said another reason he’s against Proposition K for Kids is because he thinks it’s unclear where the money will actually end up and who will manage it.
“We’re going to have non-elected officials managing our money with no oversight,” he said. “Most of the people pushing this thing aren’t even from Warren County.”
Denn said the money will be managed by a board of citizens from a variety of interests actively sought out and appointed by the county commission. He said the money will be regulated by twice-annual audits required by the state.