Sevier County residents were recently informed that the county will be paying off the construction bonds for the county jail this year, which is five years sooner than anticipated. That means, a quarter cent sales tax will be sun-setting, which means the county will no longer collect that quarter cent sales tax.
However, county officials would like for county residents to approve a quarter cent sales tax that would be used to operate and maintain the county jail.
Sevier County Sheriff Robert Gentry reported the county jail has a budget of $1.5 million dollars. He said $660,000 of that amount comes from a three-eights sales tax. He said the rest of his budget consists of funds from the County General along with anticipated revenue from the City of De Queen, the Arkansas Department of Corrections and Little River County.
Gentry said the quarter cent sales tax that was designated for the jail's construction bonds, generates about $540,000 a year.
Gentry said if county residents allowed the county to continue collecting that quarter cent sales tax, but use it for the operation and maintenance of the jail, it would free up about $500,000 a year in the County General fund.
County Judge Greg Ray stated he's not sure what the county will do if the county residents don't approve this quarter cent sales tax for the jail.
Ray said Sheriff Gentry is doing everything he can to keep expenses down, including offering new programs, like a GPS employment program that allows inmates to stay at home with their families while working off their fines.
When the jail was built, the budget was about $800,000 and the three-eights sales tax provided about 83 percent of the jails budget. Now, it provides less than 50 percent. If county residents vote to allow the county to collect the remaining quarter cent for the jail's budget, it would provide about 80 percent of the jail's budget and provide relief to the county's General fund.
Ray also reported there will be several town hall meetings beginning in July to discuss the matter with the residents of Sevier County.