Lee Co. officials review sales tax increase a year later

Lee Co. officials review sales tax increase a year later

LEE COUNTY, AL (WTVM) - One year after Lee County voters approved a one-cent sales tax increase, it's time to take a look at how much money has been generated and how it's being used.

When leaders asked voters to approve this tax, they said it would be dedicated to the youth - and it has. The sheriff's office has more deputies on the road - with a focus on school safety.

Lee County leaders are working on building a youth recreation department families will be proud. A "yes" at the polls kick-started a one-cent sales tax for the in the unincorporated areas of Lee County and Smith Station.

A year after the tax was implemented on Nov. 1, 2014, nearly $1 million has been collected. The money is split 50-50, between public safety and youth recreation.

"The one thing you can say about this sales tax is it is youth oriented," said Lee County Administrator Roger Rendleman.

Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones used the funds to hire 6 new deputies and plans to hire more to expand the school resource officer program. The sales tax revenue increased his deputy staff by 10 percent from 70 to 80 deputies.

"Our goal is to have a resource officer or school resource deputy in every one of our schools, we have 9 campus's and 14 schools and we want a deputy at each campus in the community," Jones said.

Before the one cent sales tax increase, the economy prevented the Lee county commission from funding youth rec sports for 9,000 children and teens.

Now, with a consistent funding source, county leaders will improve the sports complex in Smith Station and build new sports facilities and establish programs in Beauregard, Beulah and Loachapoka.

"Very soon we will be hiring a firm to come in and develop a master plan for completion of Smiths Station, to get Beulah and Beauregard going and look at Loachapoka and the true needs there," Rendleman said.

The county commission will hire a firm to create a master plan later on this month. It will take a few years to get the new facilities built and programs in place, but the goal is to make sure every child and teen has access to quality programs for team sports like baseball, softball, soccer and football.

Sheriff Jones says school shootings are a horrific part of the world we live in, and he wants a deputy at every school at all times. County leaders believe having quality rec programs will help kids with their physical and mental health, build their confidence and help them make friends.

It's a quality of life issue commissioners couldn't afford to fund, but with the one cent sales tax, they now can.

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