With all unofficial totals in, voters on Tuesday said they do not want to pay more at the cash register for general merchandise in order to bolster public safety.
With 216 precincts out of 216 precincts reporting, 26,407 people voted ‘No’ on the public safety referendum; 16,154 people voted ‘Yes.’
The reported results so far include East St. Louis totals.
County officials wanted to have the 1 percent sales tax in place for 12 years.
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The $22 million the tax was expected to bring in annually was to be used for various purposes, including renovating and expanding the St. Clair County Jail, adding sheriff’s deputies, renovating the courthouse, and paying for the county probation department. The county also planned to set aside 25 percent of the money to distribute to local municipalities and fire districts to help bolster public safety.
The 1 percent sales tax would have not applied to groceries, medication and titled vehicles.
Leading up to the Tuesday’s vote many law enforcement and public safety officials, while off duty worked to get the word out about the referendum.
“So many sheriff’s deputies, corrections officers probation officers, fire chiefs, prosecutors and others worked very hard and you know they will be working very hard again tomorrow to protect public safety,” said St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly. “Despite the results they should keep their chins up because I believe the people are with them, but the people are scared and they’re anxious about what is going on with the great deal of uncertainty they see in every level of their government. All of us must listen and try harder, but all of us, citizen and public servant alike, must understand none of this works unless we enforce the law. That’s got to be fundamental to what we do going forward.”
St. Clair County Sheriff Rick Watson said issues with the jail still exist and having sometimes only four deputies on the road at one time will remain difficult.
“We’ve got to live with the cards we got dealt,” Watson said. “We’ll just do the best with what we got.”
Watson maintained a sales tax increase is the cheapest option for residents in the county. He said County Board members will now have to look at other ways to help pay for the jail update.
“I’m sure they will have to look at property taxes,” Watson said. “We were trying to give an alternative that would be cheaper. Our proposal would have helped every community in the county.”