By Bob Balgemann


How much money generated by the public safety sales tax (PSST) is used for public safety purposes continues to draw discussion in Boone County.

According to Ordinance 16-19, voters on April 13, 1999, approved the half-cent PSST by a margin of 66 percent “yes” to 34 percent “no.” The purpose of the tax was “financing an extension of the existing jail…”

The tax generates more money than is needed each year to help pay off the bonds. Since 2004, some of that money has been used for other purposes.

Public safety expenditures included expansion of the jail, which took $155,322 in fiscal year 2010, and the purchase of squad cars in fiscal years 2012-14, totaling $626,107.

Here are other amounts that were transferred out of the PSST in other fiscal years:

In 2010-11, the amount was $500,000; in 2011-12, $425,000; in 2012-13, $350,000; in 2013-14, $275,000; in 2014-15, $200,000; and in 2015-16, $900,000.

Ordinance 16-19, which was approved 8-4 at the county board’s Wednesday, Nov. 16 meeting, called for removing $1.404 million in PSST revenue during the 2016-17 fiscal year, which begins Thursday, Dec. 1. There won’t be any money available in 2017-18, what with the entire bond issue having been paid off.

Board member Cathy Ward was the only one to comment on Ordinance 16-19 at the Wednesday, Nov. 16 meeting.

She reminded her colleagues of the board decision, made in 2011, to take $500,000 out of the tax for other purposes. The hope, she said, was to decrease the dependency to $50,000 this year.

The $50,000 amount was reflected in Ordinance 15-25, which was approved last year in a 9-3 vote. She added that $150,000 was supposed to have been removed in 2015-16 but, actually, $900,000 was taken.

Given the proposal to remove $1.404 million in 2016-17, rather than the scheduled $50,000, she said she would not be able to support the ordinance.

Others agreeing with her and voting against approval of Ordinance 16-19 were board members Sherry Branson, Kenny Freeman, and Brad Stark.

That ordinance had been recommended for approval in a 5-0 vote of the finance, taxation, and salaries committee.

There was supposed to be a referendum on the future of the PSST on the Tuesday, Nov. 8 general election ballot. However, county leaders agreed way too much work needed to be done before that could happen. So, the vote was put on hold.

Jewels to Jeans

Also Wednesday, Nov. 16 board member Ward reported on the recently held Jewels to Jeans dinner, a major fundraiser of the Boone County Council on Aging.

She said a record number of tables were purchased, with a record number of people attending, and a record amount of money, $23,000, being generated by the event.

This year, the event honored the Granges, civil organizations known widely for their community service such as the annual Boone County Fair and Safety Town.

She reported that next year it will recognize first responders, medically trained personnel who assist at the scene of an emergency. Often they are firefighters, trained emergency medical technicians, and paramedics. Sometimes they are the first to arrive, and they render assistance until the arrival of the ambulance.

The council on aging oversees the popular Keen Age Center, located at 2141 Henry Lucklow Lane in Belvidere. The center is home to a variety of activities for senior citizens.

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