JP says sales tax might be county's only option

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Carroll County District 1 Justice of the Peace Jack Deaton isn’t thrilled about the idea of asking for a tax increase to pay for upgrades to the county’s emergency communications system.

But he believes it might be the only practical solution to an issue that is likely to become more pressing as time goes on.

“We’ve looked at every avenue possible,” Deaton said Monday. “It’s for the safety of the people of the county.”

Deaton, who raised the idea of a countywide sales tax at last week’s March meeting of the Carroll County Quorum Court, said that he expects to have more details on a proposal within the next week. He said he anticipates that a sales tax of somewhere between a quarter-cent and a half-cent would generate the necessary revenue.

“We’re not looking at a lot,” he said.

The biggest expense associated with the upgrade would be the addition of several communications towers throughout the county. Consultant Sam Ward advised the quorum court at its February meeting that adding those towers could cost several million dollars.

“That’s where all of the big money is,” Deaton said.

Deaton said all of the emergency responders in the county would use the new towers and thus would benefit from a potential sales tax.

The federal government is expected to mandate a switch from analog to digital communications for emergency responders, although no timeline has been established.

Regardless, Deaton said the county’s current system is operating on borrowed time. And the age of the existing equipment makes it more difficult to find replacement parts.

“What we’ve got is pretty much worn out,” he said.

Deaton said he anticipates a public backlash to any proposal for new taxes, which he said is understandable. But he said he believes county residents will see the necessity once they learn more about the issue.

“We’ll have to have some town hall meetings on this,” he said.

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