The 2021 municipal election is less than a week away, which means those involved with the Proposition C.O.P.S. initiative will soon know whether or not a new jail will be in the county’s near future. In addition, direction will be given on the Perry County Health Department and Memorial Hospital boards as well as Altenburg Public School District No. 48 Board of Education.
In his office on the last Friday of March, Perry County Clerk Jared Kutz predicted a voter turnout of between 17 and 21 percent.
“It’s simple,” Kutz said. “One, it’s not being blasted all over the news and airwaves, not as many people are aware it’s even going on. I can’t establish a reason why voters don’t think it’s as important as other elections. I think it’s completely critical.”
“I use this example every judge training I do for municipal elections,” Kutz said. “Municipal government...our schools boards, our local health department and hospital boards, our municipal elections, these are the elections for the people and the issues that face us right here at home. Every time I call the White House I never get a phone call back but I can text the mayor right now and say I need to meet him and he’ll make something happen. I’ll see him this afternoon. That’s the difference. These are our neighbors that are controlling our local government and to me that’s as important as anything because we feel that more. Municipal governments are the ones that keep the water on. They’re the ones that make sure our sewers work. Our local leaders are the ones affecting our health department that’s going to give us care if we need it. Our hospital is our local hospital, so it’s our local government vs. our state or federal government.”
Money talks at the mid-term and presidential elections in November, according to Kutz. Not so much at the municipal level, though.
“At the state and federal level, they’re dumping 10s of thousands, 100s of thousands and even millions, and in presidential elections, billions of dollars into informing the voters,” he said. “The money’s not there to make that happen at a local level.”
The COVID-19 pandemic delayed last year’s municipal election from April until early June. Kutz suggested
this could have led voters to not participate, or not even find out who was running.
“I think in a year we just went through in 2020 with the pandemic and everything, we maybe as a community, not as many people were paying attention,” Kutz said.
“When things are going good and it doesn’t necessarily affect your life per se, it doesn’t register on your radar...things associated with the hospital and the health department and how they handled the authority that could be granted to those agencies through emergency declarations, it put it on the front burner and people were paying attention more.”
For those wondering if their polling place has changed, that won’t be the case.That will all remain the same, with the Perryville 1 and Perryville 4 precincts combined at the Perry Park Center. In addition, the Uniontown/Longtown (Grace Lutheran School, 84 Grace Lane), Lithium/Brewer (Elizabeth Seton Hall, 59 Shady Lane) and Crosstown/Farrar (Bethlehem Baptist Church, 160 PCR 350) precincts will be combined again.
Kutz predicted a countywide turnout of about 19 percent this April, though this tally will likely be higher in the Altenburg and Frohna precincts due to contested Board of Education races for Altenburg Public School District No. 48.
“I would be ecstatic with 2,500 voters,” Kutz said.
Plugging that total into the number of registered voters in the June 2020 municipal election, 12,008, would give Perry County a turnout of 20.81 percent.
Kutz thinks the individuals seeking office should help with participation.
“This is first time we’ve had a big swath of candidates for both boards and then of course anytime there’s a tax issue on the ballot, particularly in a conservative community like Perryville that we’re fortunate to live in, you’re going to see an interest, an uptick with a tax issue such as Prop C.O.P.S. on the ballot.”
The Perry County Board of Commissioners took action in late December to place Proposition (Court Operations Police Sheriff) C.O.P.S. on the April ballot. The 65-word question asked voters whether or not they favor a half cent sales tax for 20 years and one-eighth of a cent after that for the purpose of providing funding for constructing and maintaining a county justice center.
Those involved with the Proposition C.O.P.S. initiative will soon know if the efforts have paid off.
Kutz conceded it comes down to being honest with the voters.
“Whenever you get down to it, it’s about the individuals who are asking the question,” Kutz said. “They need to get in front of the people and answer the question. Thankfully, we’ve gotten lots of good coverage and informative pieces in the newspaper that have helped that. It’s my understanding there will be a mail piece going out to a large number of homes throughout the county next week that’ll be about the Prop C.O.P.S. It’s all about education.
“I think the (Perry County) commission, in conjunction with the city of Perryville leadership with (city administrator) Brent (Buerck), has done about as much as they can to get that out there and made those presentations,” Kutz said.
Perry County and the city of Perryville favored tax measures on the ballot in both 2016 and 2017, Kutz said.
One involved a sales tax for courthouse renovation while there also was a property tax initiative for Perry County District 32.
“This is a completely new tax,” Kutz said.
Education efforts by supporters have centered on the condition of the sheriff’s office and jail which has been at its existing location on Highway 61 since 1989. This proposition, if approved, would not be limited to finding permanent solutions for that portion of county government.
Six individuals are seeking a spot on the five-member Perry County Health Department Board of Trustees. The candidates are Denise Morrison, Carol Moore, Carisa Stark, Alexandria Lueders, Keith A. Carroll and Chris Wibbenmeyer.
Meetings take place the third Tuesday of each month at 9 a.m. Agendas are posted on the bulletin board outside the health department’s door. Those now serving are Morrison (chair), Carol Moore (vice chair), Mary Boxdorfer (secretary), Sharon Unterreiner (treasurer. The fifth seat is vacant at this time.
Four individuals are seeking one spot on the five-member publicly elected Perry County Memorial Hospital Board of trustees. The candidates are William “Bill” Bohnert, Patrick A. Naeger, Sharon K. Unterreiner and Linda E. Buerck. All four are seeking the seat previously held by Tim Brewer (vice chair). The individual receiving the most votes will serve a four-year term.
Meetings take place the last Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. The remaining board members are Steve Rozier (chairman), Greg Unger (secretary), Darrel Niswonger (treasurer) and Beth Guth.
APS District No. 48
Three individuals filed for a Board of Education post in Altenburg School District No. 48. The candidates seeking a three-year term are Sarah Stueve, Zachary France and Brittany Hecht. Voters are asked to select two candidates. In addition, there is another spot on the board for a term ending in 2022. Harold France was the only candidate to file paperwork to get his name on the ballot. Kutz said Lindsey Palisch filed as a declared write-in candidate March 18. Voters are asked to choose one person.
The APS No. 48 Board of Education typically meets the second Thursday of each month, at 6:30 p.m.
However, this month, the seven-member board will convene Tuesday, April 13.
Four years ago, in 2017, with an overall turnout of 23.99 percent (3,022 of 12,598 registered voters) better than 70 percent of voters approved Proposition KIDS for Perry County District 32.
In April 2016, county voters approved a local parks tax question (78 percent, 1,666 votes in favor. A year later, in 2017, voters strongly favored a sales tax to fund roads and bridges (83.65 percent, 3,372 votes in favor).
In 2019, when voter turnout was 9.24 percent (1,149 ballots cast among 12,434 registered), just five of the county’s 18 precincts surpassed 10 percent turnout, led by Farrar (36 of 200, 18 percent) and followed by Longtown (42 of 302, 13.91 percent) and Perryville 1 (185 of 1,611, 11.48 percent).