Henry County Sheriff ready for public safety tax vote

Sheriff's Office says the money will address staff shortages and equipment needs

Cambridge, Illinois - A public safety sales tax in Henry County will go to voters for a fourth time Tuesday, March 20.

It's failed every other time so far.

It would add a half a penny to the local sales tax in Henry County. 

Henry County Sheriff Kerry Loncka said the money's needed to replace outdated equipment like broken squad cars.

He said the county's board indicates this is the last shot before looking at other options.

Sheriff Loncka said he's no fan of increasing taxes, but this is the best and fairest option. It would provide an estimated $1.4 million a year to help keep the department able to respond.

Sheriff Loncka said, "We have 827 square miles that we patrol."

A lack of money in Henry County for the Sheriff's Department is making it hard to cover that ground after a difficult ten years.

Sheriff Loncka said, "We've suffered cuts. We've had 11 people that have been let go from our department in the last decade."

It's caused a staffing shortage both in the jail and on patrol.
Some nights, only two deputies are on duty and that can leave them racing across the county for a call.

"If our deputy isn't in the right place when an emergency comes in, it's going to take them a little while to get there, and we've had some close calls," Sheriff Loncka said.

But it's not just a human toll; their squad cars are also dealing with age.
Sheriff Loncka said that's adding another stress to the job.

"Some of them are in cars that they know that they're on the way out." Sheriff Loncka said, "There's transmissions that are going out."

Sheriff Loncka, only a few months into the job, is hoping this latest attempt at a public safety tax, if passed, will end up serving them as well as it has other counties.

Sheriff Loncka said, "Been wonderful in other counties, they've been able to up staffing levels, and it's been a lifeline for them."

For every one hundred dollars of retail spending, Sheriff Loncka said it would help generate 50 cents.
He said if this latest attempt fails, it's back to a limited drawing board.

"Would be through on the back of the property owner and we feel that this is the fairest way where everybody is paying in," said Sheriff Loncka.

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