January 16, 2002 11:00 pm

By Alice Perry Linker

Observer Staff Writer

The Union County Sheriffs Department is looking at the possibility of creating a law enforcement taxing district.

Sheriff Steve Oliver and Undersheriff Dana Wright presented the idea to the Union County commissioners Wednesday.

Wright said the concept of a taxing district is in its earliest stages and no decisions have been made.

Were looking to supplement county tax dollars, Wright said after the meeting.

The sheriffs department budget is $1.8 million, with $1.3 million of that going to jail costs, he said.

If the department decides to seek a taxing district, the election would be held in November.

We dont know if well go for a taxing district, Wright said. Were learning what would be involved if we do. Wed have to have a lot of public meetings.

Wright said the department decided to take a look at a new district because the county may lose general fund money from the federal payment in lieu of taxes (PILT) program. Those funds are based partly on the amount of property owned by the federal government and partly on timber receipts.

Were trying to look to the future and see how to continue the level of service to the citizens with a shrinking budget, Wright said.

Marlene Perkins, county administrative officer, said Wednesday that because of the increase in federal forest receipts earmarked for roads, the PILT could decrease.

I just dont know how well be affected, dont know how much, she said.

The taxing district boundaries have not been set, Wright said, but he expects the basic decisions to be made within the month.