The Jenkins City Council voted unanimously to raise the city’s insurance tax from five to six percent at its March meeting this week.
Mayor Todd Depriest told the council that the insurance tax pays for the Jenkins Police Department and provides some funds to the Jenkins Volunteer Fire Department. He said that without a raise in the tax, it will be difficult to pay salaries that will keep trained police officers in Jenkins.
Several council members expressed reservations about raising the tax and no one wanted to raise it more than one percent. Councilman Rick Damron, who has consistently opposed raising taxes and sought to reduce property taxes, said that he was surprised at the number of people who do not carry insurance on their property, and added that he believes that higher taxes might drive business away and keep others from locating here. Damron said he would not want to raise the rate more than one percent.
Councilman Kyle Walker also opposed raising the tax more than one percent, saying that taxes in Jenkins are already high enough. Damron referenced the tax rate levied by the Jenkins Independent Schools as the one that most people dislike, but Walker said he thought it had been in effect for so long that people are used to it.
Jenkins Police Chief Jim Stephens told the council the department has five officers and that is the optimum number for adequate police protection. Stephens said it allows two officers to patrol at night and for shift overlap to allow them to protect the city and their fellow officers. He said Jenkins has good officers, but echoed Depriest in saying that it is difficult to keep them when they can make more money elsewhere.
Jenkins resident Steve Addington questioned the need for five officers, saying that the city’s “radius” is only nine miles. But Walker and Councilman Robert Adams both said that while they didn’t want to raise the tax rate past six percent, they see the benefits of having five officers.
Councilman Chuck Anderson made the motion to raise the rate to six percent and Rick Damron said that although he hates taxes, he would second it. The vote to approve was unanimous.
In other business, Mayor Depriest raised the issue of speeding in city limits. Chief Stephens told the council that most complaints have come about excessive speed in the area around the God’s Love in a Diaper Bag ministry, located at the end of Main Street in the old Lucas Lumber and Hardware site. He said the 25 miles per hour speed limit for downtown doesn’t start until farther into town, but that the speeds in question generally exceed the 35 miles per hour speed limit where the ministry is located. Mayor Depriest cited difficulties in getting the state highway department to lower speed limits, and City Attorney Randall Tackett added that the complaints mention speeds of 50 to 60 miles per hour.
Stephens said that it is impossible to station an officer there all the time and that when he parked an empty cruiser there, he was told that people just laughed at it.
He mentioned the possibility of installing a flashing speed limit sign or one that contains a radar device to show motorists their rate of speed as they pass by. Rick Damron said those are expensive but could possibly be grant funded. Damron also said that as a last resort, companies that post speed cameras like those in Virginia will place the cameras free and take part of the ticket fee.