Ballot Initiative to Fund Police Department

On November 8, voters will consider a 20-year, half-cent sales tax for the purpose of funding the police department and ensuring the sustainability of public safety. 

Community surveys indicate that public safety is a priority for our residents. Full police staffing on the street will allow for quicker response times, and a more proactive approach to addressing and deterring crime. The City Council is committed to addressing crime and safety in our community.

A dedicated police sales tax will improve officer recruitment and retention, make our police department a more competitive law enforcement employer, and better ensure we do not lose officers to surrounding departments. The tax will also allow for the purchase of replacement police vehicles and other equipment so officers can quickly respond to calls for service.

The dedicated tax will also ease the financial burden on other City funds to sustain and support community services and ensure the City maintains a strong and dedicated workforce.

Ballot Language

Shall the City of St. Joseph, Missouri impose a City sales tax of one-half of one percent (1/2%) for a period of twenty (20) years for the purpose of funding the police and ensuring the sustainability of public safety.

Sales Tax

A half-cent sales tax is estimated to generate approximately $5.5 million dollars annually.

A half-cent is one nickel for every $10 purchase.

If passed, the city's portion of sales tax would increase to 3.875%. County and state sales taxes are an additional 5.825%. The total sales tax rate would increase to 9.7%.

It is estimated that approximately 42% of all sales tax is paid by persons who live outside our community who do not pay property taxes, but use our emergency services when necessary.

Passage & Failure

The cost to provide staffing and equipment to fund an adequate police department has risen significantly. If passed, the tax will last for a period of 20 years and will ensure sustainability of the police department pay plan. That plan is designed to recruit and retain the officers needed to maintain safety and security while providing a desirable environment in which to live, work and play. This dedicated tax will ensure sufficient police department revenue while easing the burden on other City funds.

If the tax is not approved on November 8, a prioritization of city services will be required moving forward in the next fiscal year.

Existing Public Safety Tax

In 2013, voters approved a half-cent public safety sales tax to be used for police, fire and health departments. The tax was designed to enhance salaries, add 20 new police officers, and fund capital equipment for these departments. In the early years of the tax, objectives were met, however, due to the rise in the cost of policing, the tax no longer adequately provides funding for the necessary officers and equipment to ensure the community's safety. As a point of reference, the starting police officer pay in 2014 was $36,600. With the new pay plan, the starting pay for a police officer is $49,000.

The public safety tax enabled the fire department to reach full staffing and is currently meeting the needs of the fire and health departments. Our police recruitment and retention has become challenging. Police officer applications have declined, officers are leaving, and our wages are no longer competitive with surrounding areas. 

Long-Term Sustainability

The new tax will also ease the financial burden on other City funds as a portion of police salaries currently paid from General Fund will be paid by the new tax. Initially, approximately $3.75 million will be made available to the General Fund. That number will decrease to approximately $2.2 million as the police department reaches full staffing. The additional available funds will help ensure the City is able to retain dedicated employees, replace aging and failing equipment, and continue to provide services to be community. All revenue from the proposed new tax will be completely dedicated to the police department.