A major source of funding for the Clay County Sheriff’s Office is on the Nov. 2 ballot for renewal. The eighth-cent Law Enforcement Sales Tax funds 25% of our budget, which has a significant impact on our operations.
Let me be clear, this is not a new or increased tax. The tax has been in effect since 1998 for residents and visitors.
It generated about $5 million dollars last year. I know $5 million may sound like a lot, but an eighth-cent sales tax equates to just 2.5 cents on a $20 purchase. A significant portion is paid by visitors that shop or dine in the county.
The ballot language requires an annual audit of the funds. Because we are good stewards of your tax dollars, I am happy to have that accountability measure in place. The ballot language also removes the requirement of voter approval every 12 years. For most Clay County residents, this will be the only item on the Nov. 2 ballot, and the cost to hold the election is about $100,000. Removing the sunset would eliminate future election costs, and the County Commission can vote to repeal the tax at any time.
Money generated by the Law Enforcement Sales Tax funds the sheriff’s office, which plays a unique and important role in public safety. Our largest responsibility is the operation of the almost 400-bed Clay County Detention Center. We are tasked with confining hundreds of inmates – most of whom are awaiting trial – safely and humanely 24/7. COVID protocols have placed increased burdens on our detention staff and the facility.
The Clay County Sheriff’s Office also provides police services to unincorporated areas of the county and small cities that do not have police departments. Since the sales tax last renewedin 2009, we have taken over policing duties in Holt, Mosby, Randolph, Birmingham and county parks. We also have been increasingly assisting understaffed departments in the county on their calls for service.
The sheriff’s office provides security at the Clay County Courthouse and serves thousands of civil orders annually. We monitor sex offenders, manage CCW permits, provide 17 school resource deputies to North Kansas City Schools, provide county Emergency Management services and apprehend fugitives.
County growth necessitates continued funding to provide for resident safety. Since voters last renewed the sales tax, Clay County’s population has grown 16.2% while sheriff’s office staff has grown by 9%.
Since 2009, we also implemented important but costly accountability measures, including body-worn and dash cameras and the software, hardware and storage that accompany them.
The Clay County Sheriff’s Office is always looking for innovative ways to better serve and protect while building on previous tried-and-true methods. Renewal of the sales tax will enable us to continue that mission.