Independence voters have ample reasons to say “yes” on Nov. 3 and renew two eighth-cent sales taxes that help finance the city’s fire and police departments.
Since 2005, revenue from the pair of taxes has been used to improve essential public safety services in the metropolitan area’s fifth largest city.
Officials have purchased police cars, fire pumpers and technology equipment. The taxes also have supported construction and renovation of public safety buildings.
Citizens oversight groups have monitored the spending over that time. Lawyer Jonathan Zerr, who has been involved in these efforts for years, recently told The Star that these committees have included some “skeptics” who eventually concluded that the city was properly spending public funds.
In addition, a different citizens panel last year endorsed extending the taxes. It concluded that losing the revenue from them would “render the departments unable to continue current services,” force a staffing reduction and damage the city’s ability to maintain and replace public safety equipment.
As voters review these issues, a little history helps show how far Independence has come since the taxes were placed on the ballot in the summer of 2004.
At the time, Independence city officials and residents had failed for years to make basic improvements in their police and fire departments. Public safety vehicles and fire stations were aging, and some emergency equipment was undependable.
But voter approval of the two sales taxes spurred investments in safer Independence neighborhoods.
Mayor Eileen Weir and Zerr said the city has financed almost all the projects promised to voters in the initial 2004 elections, producing what Weir called “tangible results” for residents.
A few more projects on the original lists are set to be completed before the current taxes end on Dec. 31, 2016.
City officials hope voters support the taxes at the ballot box on Nov. 3 to allow for smoother planning for the next fiscal year and to make sure Independence can commit for another 12 years to appropriately fund public safety.
Today, each sales tax generates about $2 million annually. Those vital revenues provide better fire and police services that are worth continuing.
Renewal of the two taxes would be a vote of confidence in the future of Independence.