To the citizens of Lawrence County,
I have recently seen some letters to the editor in our area newspapers regarding the sheriff's department budget from the Law Enforcement Sales Tax (LEST) and the general fund. In order to dispel some misconceptions and misinformation, I am writing and including data available to the public at the county clerk's office.
First of all, the LEST is for all branches of law enforcement (sheriff, jail, prosecutor, coroner, juvenile office and justice center). It is not intended solely for the sheriff's department. At the time the LEST was passed, the county budget was at a critical point. Our revenues had been falling and our law enforcement expenses were increasing at a rate never seen before in Lawrence County. Our money reserves were down to unacceptable levels with barely enough to cover any unforeseen emergency.
Secondly, public safety will still receive the lion's share of the general revenue budget. Nearly 54 percent of the expected general revenue fund sales tax revenue of $1.53 million is dedicated to public safety. Additional general revenue funds of nearly $500,000 have been moved to the LEST fund in 2018. The Judicial Sales Tax Fund also is budgeted to pay for bailiffs' salaries, uniforms and fringe benefits, and electronic monitoring of inmates.
Thirdly, the sheriff has four funds available. These are available for his use in his department at his discretion under statutory guidelines.
the Lawrence County commission has and always will be pro-public safety and law enforcement. With that said, that same commission must deal with the realities of budgeting which boils down to basic math. The commission must balance the budget and keep enough reserves as are necessary to operate the county.
A wise man once told me more is never enough, and unfortunately when it comes to public safety in today's environment that is the case. With that said, rest assured that your commission and sheriff's department will work together to do all they can with the resources they have.
Lawrence County Presiding Commissioner