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Sheriff explains need for tax support

Letter to the Editor

 


Public safety is one of the core needs and single most important services that county government is obligated to deliver. When citizens dial 9-1-1 they have an expectation that a sheriff’s deputy is coming to their reported emergency and is coming now. It is my experience that most tax-paying citizens seldom use the services of their local public safety officers, but when they do it’s an immediate need.

As your Lincoln County Sheriff, I am reaching out to you with something to consider while reviewing the November ballot. The Board of County Commissioners authorized a ballot proposition to increase the sales and use tax in Lincoln County to help adequately fund Public Safety. This would increase the tax within Lincoln County by three-tenths of 1 percent, raising the rate from 7.7 to 8.0 percent, providing funds to help offset increasing costs for delivering essential public safety services for both the towns and county.

Lincoln County’s 7.7-percent sales and use tax is much lower than surrounding cities and counties. By comparison, the city of Airway Heights rate is at 8.9 percent, and Spokane County is at 8.7 percent, so when we purchase taxable items in Spokane County we are helping fund their Public Safety. The need to approve this proposition for Lincoln County has never been so great. There is no choice but to reach out to the voters and ask for your help!

The proposition is supported by all eight town councils and mayors within Lincoln County: Almira, Creston, Davenport, Harrington, Odessa, Reardan, Wilbur and Sprague. The support was memorialized by resolutions from each council. The commissioners and I felt this topic was so important that we visited each council meeting this past summer and explained in detail the county’s budgetary shortfalls. These shortfalls have resulted in the loss of five sheriff deputies, three within the last two years, as well as other full-time employees in the courthouse, and significant line-item reductions.

The Sheriff’s Office level of service has declined in the past few years, as sheriff’s deputies find themselves being reactive instead of proactive simply because we do not have enough staff. The calls for service continue, but we have fewer deputies to respond. We simply can’t keep up! Deputies are forced to prioritize calls.

Due to low staffing levels, the number of hours deputies can cover in a 24-hour period have become fewer, leaving way too many hours with no coverage or minimum coverage in a county that is almost 2,400 square miles. This is not acceptable and not fair to those we serve. Deputies are left with backup miles away, in many cases, or no backup at all.

I ask for your help and consideration in approving the Public Safety Sales and Use Tax Proposition when you vote in the next few weeks. This proposition is extremely important for our county’s safety and security and is one way for you to help me help you. Small counties have been significantly impacted by state regulations and initiatives that larger counties can sustain because of their much larger business districts, work force and related revenue streams.

We will do our very best to provide the highest level of professionalism and service that we can possibly provide, but we need your help to keep Lincoln County the safest and best place to live in the country. Public Safety needs your help, and I ask that you approve the Lincoln County Public Safety Sales and Use Tax Proposition No. 1 in the upcoming election.

Sheriff Wade W. Magers

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