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St. Clair County Faces Tax Increase to Renovate Jail

Brad Choat
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File photo of a prison cell. (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

File photo of a prison cell. (Photo by TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

brad-choat Brad Choat
Reporter/editor Brad Choat joined the KMOX news team in the summer of...
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ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Tax payers in Saint Clair County aren’t enthused about paying more in sales tax to fund the renovation and expansion of the county jail. Voters are being asked to approve the tax at this Tuesday’s referendum.

The jail was built in the 1970’s with approximately 418 inmates. Currently, the jail is overflowing inmates reaching daily levels at about 550.

“Our state attorney says we have taxes, but we hate crime more and that really says it all,” says St. Clair County Board Chair, Mark Kern. “We don’t want to make this property tax-based. We’d like it to be a sales tax.”

Kern urges that this is a matter of public safety. He says that this would not be a property tax increase, but in the county, it has some of the highest property taxes in the nation and state.

“We’ve got prisoners sleeping on the floor, which causes a problem for our jailers, for the deputies, security in the jail…it’s just not a good situation,” says Kern.

Referendum opponent Kent Strang of O’Fallon is with the Illinois chapter of Americans for Prosperity. The organization has more than 2.3 million activists nationwide who promote limited government and lower taxes.

Strang told KMOX that the project cost is 37 million and the sales tax increase would amount to a quarter on every 100 dollar purchase.

“Over the 25 years that this is going to enact, it’s roughly going to generate around 134 million dollars, which is over three times the amount needed and we have a real problem with that,” says Strang.

Strang adds that businesses in Fairview Heights and across the county could lose shoppers to Missouri and other places if they are asked to pay more in sales taxes.

Kern says that this is the lowest amount that would levy through the process and that they chose the lowest cost alternative for the jail.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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