Lonoke County voters approved a 0.5 % sales and use tax that will be used for operating and equipping the county jail and sheriff's office during a special election Tuesday.
The tax passed narrowly, just 11 votes, according to a document provided by Dawn Porterfield, the Lonoke County clerk. The complete but unofficial totals were:
Two ballots were left unmarked.
"I want to thank those that supported this proposal," Sheriff John Staley said in a text late Tuesday. "I appreciate the support for our deputies, jailers, and staff. It truly means so very much."
Doug Erwin, the Lonoke County judge, previously said that the tax will generate about $4 million annually, specifically for the jail and sheriff's office. He said the county spends about $5.5 million out of its general fund for each.
The county's current sales and use tax is 1%. It will increase to 1.5 % with the approval of the new tax.
Erwin said the tax was needed because an original tax about 12 years ago only covered the cost of replacing the county's 132-bed jail with one double the size. It didn't cover operation and maintenance costs.
He said the sheriff's office and jail was draining the county's reserves and cuts to services would need to be made without a new funding source.
Staley previously said the sheriff's office employs about 15 patrol deputies split among four shifts. The tax will help hire more deputies to cover the 74,000 residents the office serves.
It also will provide a better wage for deputies who typically start at $12.40 per hour and jailers who start at about $11.
The tax also will update equipment for the jail and sheriff's office, and help maintain the jail and provide recovery programs for inmates.