Sheriff urges voters to pass public safety sales tax increase this fall

The Sheriff of Rock Island County is making a pitch to voters to pass a proposed half-percent sales tax this fall, calling it a matter of public safety.

"This referendum will replace a communications system that is woefully old and inadequate. This referendum will buy squad cars, and body cams, and other equipment for our community safety," said Sheriff Gerry Bustos, at a press conference Tuesday on the steps of the Justice Center in Rock Island.

"This referendum will prevent potential layoffs of deputies, correctional officers, dispatchers, maintenance staff, and many more of the people you see here today," he said.

The half-percent sales tax could add between 5 to 7 million dollars to the budget of the Sheriff's Department.

The tax would not be imposed on purchases of prescriptions, medical equipment, or groceries.

Chief Judge Walter Braud spoke at the news conference, saying layoffs incurred without the tax would compromise safety in the courtroom and jail.

"Help us out. It's an emergency. If you only vote for a tax increase once in your life, do it this time," Judge Braud said.

Sheriff Bustos says the sales tax will shift the burden away from homeowners and property taxes.

"This referendum will lower the count portion of your property taxes by 12 percent this year. We ask that you vote yes," he said.

A competing proposal will be on the same ballot for Rock Island-Milan schools.

Three town-hall type meetings to talk about the public safety sales tax are scheduled in October.