Sheriff says new Henry County public safety tax proposal could be difference between life or death

CAMBRIDGE, Illinois-- Illinois Henry County Sheriff Kerry Loncka is backing a public safety tax that's failed to pass the last three times. Now, he says the tax could be the difference between life or death.

In Henry County the cuts outweigh the additions.

"We've cut 11 positions over the last ten years, and it's a time bomb waiting to explode," says Sheriff Loncka.

During some shift as the Henry County Jail, on the floor, there's one officer for every 50 inmates. And the Sheriff's Department is facing the same sort of staffing shortage.

Sheriff Loncka says on some shifts, only two deputies are responsible for covering more than 800 miles of Henry County road. And they do it in squad cars with more than 100,000 miles on them.

"They depend on those vehicles, as you can imagine being rural, they're traveling high speeds in cars that aren't reliable," says Sheriff Loncka.

The Sheriff is asking for help.

"I don't like taxes, but I love the community I live in," says Sheriff Loncka.

To bring in more money, the idea is to spread the tax burden around to more than just property owners. Anyone who gets gas, eats at a restaurant or stays at a Henry County hotel would pay half a cent extra for every dollar. That comes out to be 50 cents for every $100 spent. Sheriff says it's expected to bring in $1.4M a year.

Some voters aren't sold.

"Probably not, things around there are high as it is," says Bishop Hill resident Dustin Johnson.

But the sheriff says this tax is the answer to a safer future.

"It would be life changing," says Sheriff Loncka.

The referendum will be held next Tuesday, March 20. It needs a simple majority to pass.