Police, Volunteers Celebrate Passage of Safety Tax

Police, Volunteers Celebrate Passage of Safety Tax

Supporters say we will soon see an improved and larger police department
(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.)  With only the public safety tax on the ballot Tuesday, attention on the results was focused. Volunteers and supporters gathered to watch the votes come in.

With one eye on an I-Pad and another on a cell phone, safety tax supporters nervously tracked results. However, within an hour of the polls closing, they got the answer they wanted.

"We won as we said we would," said Safety Tax Committee Co-Chair Steven Briggs, as he announced the victorious totals to those that gathered for the celebration.

The 1/2 cent sales tax dedicated to use on public safety passed on a 56-44 percent vote.

"The big winners in this are the men and women of the fire department, and the police department and the health department," said Carl Butcher, the other co-chair of the committee.

Police Chief Chris Connally was also there to celebrate the support his department will receive with the passing of the tax. He credited St. Joseph neighborhoods throughout the city.

 "They came out and they supported public safety," he said.

For the past couple weeks, volunteers promoting the safety tax had been cautiously optimistic.

"Once you show our voters in St. Joe what they need and explain how the money is going to be used, they recognize it and support it," Briggs said.

By passing the tax, Butcher says recruitment and retention of police officers will be much easier..

"The pool of individuals that apply for positions within the St. Joseph Police Department, that pool is going to grow," he said. "I think you're going to see a lot more applicants and a lot more qualified applicants and that really is going to help the department when they're hiring."

At the St. Joseph F.O.P., off-duty police also tracked the vote. They say the city will soon see results.

"Once we get up to full staff, we are going to be able to respond a lot faster to calls and we're going to be able to be more productive and help citizens and be there and for them better than we have before," said F.O.P. President Mike Hardin.

Funds collected from the safety tax will be used to hire 20 new police officers, raise the salaries of current fire, police and health department staff and also buy new public safety equipment.

City officials say the new police officers should be on the streets by next spring.

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