Lawrence County residents will soon vote on a new sales tax with funds going to build a new jail/sheriff’s office

Local News

LAWRENCE COUNTY, Mo. – On November 2, Lawrence County voters will decide to construct a new jail/sheriff’s office, funded by a 3/8-cent sales tax.

According to the Lawrence County Commission, after construction bonds are paid off, 1/8-cent of the sales tax will be retired. It requires a simple majority to pass.

Residents can attend a town hall to discuss the sales tax in the second floor courtroom of the Historic Courthouse Thursday, October 28, from 7 to 8 p.m.

“While an earlier sales tax helps fund law enforcement operations, this one is for construction. A portion will be retained for maintenance and operations,” a press release states.

Four issues prompted the county commission to approach voters now:

  • Taxpayers will be spending close to a half-million dollars to house prisoners in other counties this year – money that could have gone toward jail savings or other public safety needs.
  • The County has obtained an 8.52-acre building site from the City of Mt. Vernon for a token dollar, so long as it progresses toward the construction within three years and breaks ground within five. Otherwise, the land goes back to the city.
  • The possibility of using a portion of federal American Recovery Act funds.
  • It would likely cost more to build in the future.

The County says there is currently $873,00 saved up for constructing a new jail, with the building site valued at over $120,000. Lawrence County officials say the sales tax is expected to generate roughly $1.2 million annually during the period it is at its full 3/8-cent level. The commission says the whole project would run $15-18 million.

The new jail would house 120 beds, which is more than double the capacity of the existing 52-bed jail, and the site would be able to accommodate two future 96-bed expansions.

“A 3/8-cent sales tax would add just over a third of a cent to the cost of a dollar candy bar. For $20 worth of supplies at a store, it would add seven and a half cents,” officials say.

Voters may cast absentee ballots in person at the county clerk’s office at the Historic Courthouse from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, October 30. The last day to vote absentee in-person is Monday, November 1. On election day, Tuesday, November 2, polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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