Voters in Peculiar will consider a proposed half-cent sales tax to help the city’s police department hire more officers Nov. 7 at the polls.
The public safety sales tax, as its called by the city, is the only question Peculiar residents will see on the ballot for next week’s special election.
The city’s board of aldermen unanimously passed an ordinance in August to place a new half-cent public safety sales tax on the ballot.
City Administrator Brad Ratliff said the Peculiar general fund generates about $1.6 million per year. That includes personal property tax, existing sales taxes, and franchise fees.
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Of that $1.6 million, Ratliff said about $1 million is spent on the police department and municipal court in a city approaching a population of 5,000.
Ratliff said the city hopes to add additional officers as well as cover overtime hours and time off if the sales tax passes. The money also could also be used to purchase equipment for the police department in the future.
“The only way we’re going to have competitive salaries for law enforcement, but, more than anything, more bodies to deal with the increase in population, we’re going to have to find another revenue source,” Ratliff said.
In October, Ratliff said the police department had nine officers and one opening for a 10th officer.
Ratliff estimates that the sales tax would bring in about $200,000 per year, revenue that could create up to three new positions within the department.
Currently, people making purchases inside Peculiar city limits pay an 8.475-percent sales tax rate. Passage of the public safety sales tax would increase the rate by 0.5 percent to 8.975 percent.
Citizens to Improve Public Safety (CTIPS), a group which includes two aldermen from Peculiar, has put up signs around the city supporting the upcoming ballot measure.
The group, which was not formed as a committee with the state, is comprised of Ruby Ford, Rick Schopfer, Matt Hammack, Alisa Hammack, Jerry Ford, and Harry Gurin.
In a copy of the committee’s Aug. 3 agenda, Gurin, the Peculiar police chief, is listed as a “non-voting member of board/committee” who “serves only in advisory capacity for information.”
Matt Hammack, one of the aldermen, said he and Ford are acting as private citizens with Citizens to Improve Public Safety.
As of Oct. 26, Hammack said the group has spent more than $320 out of pocket on signs.
Hammack said the group wants to take a “proactive” approach when it comes to public safety. CTIPS wants the city to be able to hire and retain more police officers, though Hammack also acknowledged some opposition to the sales tax initiative from residents who question the revenue’s potential to be used to purchase police equipment in the future.
Among those opposed to the sales tax, another concern centers on the city’s current budget and if the potential sales tax revenue might end up being diverted to a different account.
Hammack said he would like to see the budget kept as it is, with the exception of adding revenue to the law enforcement fund through the passage of the sales tax.
Despite some opposition, Hammack said he believes the city’s sales tax initiative will pass on election day.
“Public safety is No. 1,” he said. “It helps your property value and ensures you’re taken care of. I think the majority of the people in Peculiar right now support that, but the more that we get out there and the more it’s talked about, the better it is.”