Residents in Jefferson County will likely be asked to pay higher taxes to avoid what the sheriff there calls a pending crisis.
The passage of Proposition P last April in St. Louis County means officers will soon get a raise. But Jefferson County Sheriff Dave Marshak said what's good for St. Louis County could spell disaster for law enforcement agencies like his in surrounding counties.
Sheriff's deputies are responsible for 93 percent of Jefferson County's more than 660 square miles and Marshak said resources are spread thin. The department is currently down 11 deputies with eight more on temporary leave and still others being recruited by outside agencies.
Marshak said he's worried he may lose more officers when St. Louis County starts collecting Proposition P funding later this year and gives police officers pay raises.
“If they know when they can make $30,000 more in another organization it doesn't matter how much they love their community. When they have a family, they're providing for they're going to take that job,” said Marshak.
To stay competitive with salaries alone, Marshak said his department needs at least $3 million more in funding.
“When you're a victim of a crime in this county, you want quality law enforcement. But it comes at a cost and the cost is we're going to have to pay for more police officers and we're going to have to pay them competitively for them to stay and want to work in this county,” said Marshak.
A citizen-lead group in Jefferson County called Friends of Law Enforcement is working on a real estate tax initiative that would charge 35 cents per $100 of assessed value.
“For a $100,000 house, at 35 cents, it works out to about $66 a year or about 18 cents a day,” said Rhea Arculear of Friends of Law Enforcement.
A small tax to pay, the group said, for properly paid and equipped law enforcement.
“Since 1988, we haven't had anything more than a half-cent given to the sheriff's department. This is not a political initiative. This is about we have got to do something,” said Darlene Herrell of Friends of Law Enforcement.
The group hopes the tax will be on next April's ballot. If passed, it could raise as much as $7 million per year for the Sheriff's Department.
The group will start holding public meetings about the plan in a few weeks.