Breakdown of Greene County sales tax initiative

GREENE COUNTY, Mo. It's been 33 years since voters in Greene County have approved a general sales tax increase.

Overcrowding issues at the county jail have tied up a lot of the money that would normally be used for other projects.

It's why commissioners are asking for half of a penny to be added to the current sales tax.

"The county has been successful in passing specific taxes for 911 or the parks department, storm water, law enforcement but that doesn't help the operations of the county," says Greene County Administrator, Chris Coulter.

This tax initiative has mostly been viewed as a 'jail tax.'

We asked, "Do you think people would be deceived by thinking it was a jail tax because there's so much more the money will be spent on?"

No, the criminal justice system is what everybody perceives as an issue and it is an issue. A majority of this tax is going to try to resolve that problem," explains Coulter.

The jail will be overhauled to hold double the amount of prisoners it does now, saving the county at least $2 million dollars a year.

"We would hope to capitalize on those savings and parlay that into this new revenue source and be able to keep all those services on our campus, to make the system much more efficient," says Coulter.

Money will be set aside to help smaller, unincorporated communities in the county.

"Sidewalks by the schools. Maybe a small storm water project in another community. Help on a stop light or intersection improvements. Life safety issues. There are so many items that are important for our community that needs to be addressed," he explains.

Money generated by the sales tax will also be used for:

Criminal justice, including Drug Treatment Court.
Court house renovations, more courtrooms will be added making room for more judges.
Community mental health programs.
Animal control will be re-established to cover rural areas.
Federal and state required storm water management.

"Trying to find a business that was in operation 33 years ago utilizing the same type of revenue source that's in operation today, we're looking but there's not very many out there," explains Coulter.

County leaders say their deficit is so large, they'll have to cut $3 million dollars from their budget next year even if the sales tax initiative passes.

Meanwhile, construction continues on this temporary jail behind the current facility. Inmates will be moved inside these portable cells in two weeks.