Callaway County considers Prop 1 & 2 ahead of Nov. election

Posted on 17 October 2019 at 4:38am

FULTON –  Callaway County has existed for nearly 200 years without taxes that support law enforcement or the county judicial system. That could change during the county election on Nov. 5.

"We never have had any type of law enforcement or judicial-specific sales tax," Callaway County Sheriff Clay Chism said. "These two propositions cover all aspects of the criminal justice system in Callaway County."

Callaway County has scheduled two public forums to field questions and educate county residents before election day.

The first meeting is scheduled for Thursday at the Holts Summit Municipal Court Building, located at 213 S. Summit Dr. at 6 p.m.

The second forum will take place next Thursday in Fulton at 54 Country on Gaylord Drive.

Proposition 1 would provide funding to increase the number of deputies on patrol, investigators, corrections officers, assistant prosecutors and support staff while raising the pay for Callaway County law enforcement to a rate competitive with surrounding counties.

The sheriff told KOMU 8 News, on some overnight shifts, there are only two sheriff deputies to cover the 842 square miles in Callaway County.

According to the sheriff's office, during those same shifts, Holts Summit and Fulton have the same number of police officers on patrol to cover their cities which are only a mile wide.

Chism said more deputies would mean better safety for the sheriff's department and Callaway County residents, as well as better response time to calls.

"It’s not only a community safety issue, but it's an officer safety issue," he said. "There's many calls those two deputies are handling that there should be four or five deputies going to, especially any type of call that involves weapons."

Proposition 2's funding would be used to construct a new Callaway County justice center and expand the Callaway County Law Enforcement Center.

The jail is 30 years old and on any given night may hold five to 10 more detainees than its designed capacity.

Chism is hopeful the new law enforcement center would last longer than the old jail.

"I have had extensive conversations with the architects that are involved in this," Chism said. "My number one request has [been] it needs to be built to where it can be expanded later."

He said it's a matter of posterity.

"I don’t want the next sheriff 30 years from now scratching his head trying to figure out some of the things I have had to figure out as sheriff now," Chism said.

The 80-year-old courthouse's few courtrooms and narrow halls, some of which are no more than 6-feet wide, put domestic violence victims in close proximity to their abusers while awaiting a hearing.

In an informational YouTube video published by Callaway County about the propositions, Judge Sue Crane of the 13th Judicial Circuit in Missouri cited an instance where an attorney compared the cramped conditions in the courthouse to "running a gauntlet" for his client.

The limited number of courtrooms has also led to the cancellation of court hearings.

Each proposition adds half a percent each to the current county tax rate of 5.725% which, according to county officials, is one of the lowest sales tax rates in the state.

The benefit of using a sales tax versus a property or income tax to fund the propositions is a large portion of the burden will be shouldered by non-Callaway County residents.

Three of Missouri's most traveled roadways in I-70, Highway 54 and Highway 63 run through Callaway County which brings travelers who spend money inside county lines.

"Somewhere in the neighborhood of 50% of the sales tax money that is created in Callaway County is created by people that do not live in Callaway County," Callaway County Commissioner Gary Jungermann said.

According to Callaway County officials, the increased number of travelers inherently means an increase in the number of people breaking the law and getting arrested, which makes up around 40% of those held in the county jail.

Jungermann continued, "The people we're housing in our jail, we firmly believe, need to help pay for their stays here in Callaway County."

County officials said both propositions need to pass in order to be effective in fully supporting Callaway County law enforcement and the judicial system.

In addition to the forums, officials have encouraged the public to call the county commission at (573) 642-0737 for more information on the propositions.