Can funds generated by a county tag fee be strictly restricted to just the school resource officers (SROs)? District 3 Commissioner David Kelley has been looking into this issue and said it looks like it cannot.
According to Marshall County Attorney Clint Maze, these funds can be restricted to just the use of the SROs, their equipment and the training. However, after speaking with several lawyer friends, Kelley said he does not believe that to be the case.
According to one lawyer, the money cannot be restricted to only the SROs because the law that was created for the car tag tax is for purposes the schools desire. The Marshall County Board of Education could use this money on whatever they deem necessary and that does not just include the SROs, Kelley said.
The proposed tax was set into motion by Jeff McLaughlin when he was in the House of Representatives. Kelley said that this was for the schools to use for purposes of the school building. That he believes was the intent of the law.
Kelley has spokem with a couple independent attorneys along with Madison County's attorney on the matter and they have concluded what Kelley believes. Each one said that the school system could use that money for their own purposes and not just specifically for the SROs.
There are so many questions that are still in the air, Kelley said. He believes that they are rushing the vote without enough evidence to back up the tax. He does not believe that right now is the right time to vote for this tax. He still has questions that need to be answered.
One question is if the school can use the money for whatever purpose and they chose not to use it on the SROs, does that make the Commission responsible for paying for the 14 hired officers. He stated that if that is the case, they will support the Sheriff's Department.
He said that although some citizens have asked about the Simplified Sellers Use Tax (SSUT), no one has really questioned it. This tax went from one company to now over 1,200 companies. These funds are continuing to grow, he said. There is a whole lot more money coming in now from this tax. It's the tax paid by Internet retailers like Amazon.
Kelley knows that he is only one vote of four. He has a feeling that the fee will pass at the next Commission meeting Aug. 14, but he is not for the tax. He is for the SROs. He has stated that multiple times, but he believes that there are other options besides the car tag fee that could pay for the SROs.
"Unfortunately," he said, "time will tell what this vote does to our citizens."
He is also afraid that once this has passed that the tag fee will never come down or go away. He will not vote for the fee if it is too much money. He does not believe they need the full $25 that they could ask for.
"It is really a wait and see process," he said, "and I dread seeing what will happen when it is passed."