The April 2018 election in Franklin County is shaping up as one with a larger-than-normal number of tax hike proposals, plus the usual municipal, school and other taxing entities board positions on the ballots.

It will be highlighted by the county’s proposal for a half-cent sales tax to expand the jail and provide money for higher pay for law enforcement officers. It is expected to produce $6 million or more annually. Half would go for jail expansion and the other half would be shared with other law enforcement agencies throughout the county. The sharing with other agencies would provide funds for equipment and higher pay for officers. No sunset provision is in the proposal.

With St. Louis County and the city of St. Louis giving officer pay hikes, through a tax increase, retaining officers and hiring new ones in the county are expected to create a serious problem. The county wants to be competitive in retaining and hiring officers.

Law enforcement is costly, especially with a crime increase that has resulted chiefly from the use of illegal drugs. The county commission announced that former Sheriff Gary Toelke would head up the campaign to pass the half-cent sales tax. The county already has a half-cent sales tax for law enforcement. Toelke’s appointment was wise since he is familiar with the crime situation and jail needs. He also is highly respected because of his record.

The county jail was built in the 1990s to hold slightly more than 100 prisoners. The daily census exceeds that number. Many of the prisoners are held for the state and reimbursement from the state to house them has never been adequate to meet the costs. 

The county has room to expand at the present site in Union.

It is expected there will be municipal and school tax increases on ballots in the April election, plus proposals from a host of other taxing entities. The deadline to file proposals for the April election is Jan. 23.

There is concern about the number of tax increase proposals that will be on the ballots in the April election. Concerns were expressed at the county commission meeting last Tuesday when the county’s half-cent tax increase proposal was announced.

Needs have to be addressed and there are many of them in the county. The jail and pay for officers must be given a high priority in voters’ minds.