JC Proposed Public Safety Sales Tax to Target Salaries, Update Equipment

Competitive salaries and up-to-date equipment.

Those are the goals of a proposed quarter-cent sales tax for Jefferson City public safety teams that will appear on the Nov. 2 ballot.

The tax needs a simple majority to pass. If passed, collections would begin April 1 and bring in $ 2.8 million per year.

Jeremy Bowman, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, said the tax funds would help make wages more competitive and secure new equipment such as body cameras.

“The objectives of the tax are competitive salary, competitive salaries for the recruitment and retention of officers,” he said. “We recognize the technological world we live in, body cameras are essential. We support body cameras.

James Noah, vice president of Local 671, said his goal was to earn competitive wages in the fire department.

“We are quickly becoming a very young department,” he said. “We had a lot of turnover at retirement, so we lose a lot of experience and we quickly found that we were a very little scalable department (for salaries). Something that had a significant impact on our recruitment. “

Fire Chief Matt Schofield is looking for an additional fire hall, which would mean more equipment and personnel, and the sales tax could go to the equipment and personnel of the house if passed, Noah said. While there are potential needs for equipment and facilities, firefighters are focused on adjusting the pay scale, he said.

City attorney Ryan Moehlman said the tax money would go into his own account – reserved for police and firefighters – and city council would decide how it was spent.

Under Missouri law, the proceeds of a city’s public safety sales tax can be used for expenses “including, but not limited to, capital expenditures, salaries, and employee benefits. city ​​employees and facilities for police, fire and emergency medical services “.

Carlos Graham, co-chair of JC Citizens for Public Safety and former Ward 4 city councilor, said the tax funds would be in addition to the funding that public safety already receives through the general fund and sales tax money on capital improvements.

In the approved budget in 2022, the JC Police Department will receive $ 9,964,549 and the JC Fire Department will receive $ 8,195,516.

Over the next five years, the two departments combined will receive $ 5.6 million in the city’s half-cent capital improvement sales tax, which was extended in August.

“This tax should not displace other budget items,” Graham said. “This is strictly for public safety purposes. “

Jason Ambler, vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police, said he and Bowman had attended civic organization meetings to discuss the potential tax and had mostly received positive feedback.

Graham said he also talks to people about the tax and tries to answer as many questions as he can. One of the most common questions he receives is why the tax does not have a sunset.

When council discussed the tax proposal in April, members hinted at a possible extinction, which would mean the tax would be presented to voters every a certain number of years to be extended.

However, when the board put the question on the November ballot, it chose to omit a sunset.

Graham, who was on the verge of ending his last term on the board at the time, said the omission of a sunset went to the fundraising destination.

“You take care of staff and salaries,” he said. “I don’t know of any tax there strictly related to wages where there is a sunset. As you can imagine, if a sunset was set there and for some reason it didn’t pass, it will be more chaotic than anything else.

The tax is the only item on the November ballot, but Bowman said he was not concerned about voter turnout because he was confident in the campaign plan.

“We got involved in the community and educated more people, and it’s the snowball effect,” he said. “People are learning the problems we face and the solutions that may come with this tax. They tell their friends, who tell their friends, who tell their friends. I think this will continue to develop a support group.

While the tax has an immediate impact on the funding of departments, Ambler said, it projects more into the future.

“We don’t plan for the present with this,” Ambler said. “We are considering a long term investment in our community. Being born and raised here, this is my home. I have a single-digit number of years left until retirement. I open the way for the officers who take my place. It is an investment in the community.

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