City officials in Independence appropriately are again asking voters to renew a sales tax to help fund the Police Department.
Voters narrowly rejected the tax last November. Given the importance of the $2 million a year at stake in the election, the city deserves the opportunity to make its case one more time on April 5.
The Star recommends a “yes” vote on the eighth-cent tax.
Voters first approved it in 2004; it is scheduled to expire on Dec. 31, 2016. If extended, the tax would last until Dec. 31, 2028.
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Last fall, voters in the metropolitan area’s fifth largest city did barely renew a separate eighth-cent sales tax for the Fire Department.
Independence officials say they would use about two-thirds of the police tax funds to buy and maintain patrol cars. The vehicles can cost more than $50,000 each, partly because they include safety equipment and mobile data terminals.
The city also will use the police tax to buy bullet-proof vests and update the radio system, among other expenses.
Independence cannot spend the money to hire new officers or pay current ones; the sales tax can go only for capital improvements. Also, the city has pledged to continue having citizens oversight groups monitor the use of the tax.
The ballot language on April 5 points out that the sales tax funds would go to the Police Department. Last year, it was called a “public safety” tax that created confusion in some people’s minds, says Mayor Eileen Weir.
Without the $2 million a year, the city likely would have to set new priorities within its general fund to finance the Police Department, Weir said. But that would mean cutbacks in other public services.
Independence officials kept their word after voters years ago initially approved the sales taxes for the fire and police departments. The city replaced vehicles, improved fire stations and installed public safety equipment, featuring up-to-date technology.
Going forward, a top priority in Independence should be adequately financing the police so they can help keep neighborhoods safe. Renewing the eighth-cent sales tax next month would help accomplish that.