Written by Mike Seibert, Co-Chair of the Citizens’ Committee for Proposition Public Safety
On August 2, Joplin voters will be asked to support Proposition Public Safety. Currently, the City relies on sales tax revenue to fund the majority of City obligations, including our police and fire departments. The sales tax funding alone can not and will not adequately fund those departments.
As a result, the Joplin Police Department is currently down 22 officers due to low wages and unmanageable call volumes. Additionally, an outside review of the department revealed they require an additional 22 officers to meet current standards. The Joplin Fire Department, due to low wages and extra workload, also needs additional firefighters to meet their safety standards. Joplin’s successful post-tornado recovery has created a need to place an additional fire station and 12-man crew back in the center of town to meet the high demands and maintain our current ISO insurance rating of 2.
The question that is asked is this: Why can’t sales tax keep up with the City’s financial needs?
The answer is that a lot has changed since the City became sales tax dependent. The plan was to let local residents as well as those living outside of Joplin help fund the City’s operations through sales tax. That worked well when Joplin had the only Walmart, home improvement stores, fast food establishments, and sit-down restaurants. That has changed, and our region has flourished. Towns like Webb City, Carthage, Neosho, Baxter Springs, and Pittsburg now have retail and restaurants that allow their residents to shop in their hometowns. The success of our neighbors has hurt sales tax revenue for the City of Joplin.
Passing Proposition Public Safety will change that. By increasing real estate and personal property tax, the City will have the additional revenue to specifically fund the needs of the Joplin Police and Fire Departments. Joplin is the only city in the state with a population of our size or larger to receive such a small portion of property tax – less than 4%. Cities like Springfield, St. Joseph, Columbia, Lee’s Summit, Grandview, and Blue Springs receive 15t o 40% of property tax revenue to supplement their city operations. If passed, Proposition Public Safety will increase the percent of property tax revenue that the City receives to 20%. This will provide the additional $9 million of recurring revenue needed to fully fund the needs of our police officers and firefighters in Joplin. Even with the increase to Joplin’s property tax rate, we will still have rates that are lower than the towns taht were previously mentioned.
Currently, the citizens of Joplin are asking too few to do too much when it comes to police and fire protection in Joplin. This must change. And it will change with a yes vote on Proposition Public Safety on August 2.
Visit saferjoplin.com for more information.
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