(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Buchanan County commissioners are adding a law enforcement sales tax increase to the August 3 ballot.
Voters have the opportunity to vote on a quarter-cent sales tax that will greatly impact the Sheriff's Department in Buchanan County.
Commissioners say the tax increase could help raise salaries, keep employment up and move forward with more detailed work in drug abuse and other crimes in the community.
Buchanan County Sheriff Bill Puett says this tax is greatly needed not only for the Sheriff's Department but for the community as well.
“Right now, we don’t have any longevity pay, we don’t have any incentive pay," said Puett. "A one-year deputy makes the same thing as 34-year deputy. We need to rectify that.”
Sheriff Puett included the department retention has been hurting for years. Employees are leaving for better pay and opportunities outside of the city.
“It’s about people, it’s about making this a better, safer community for all of us to live in and taking care of the folks who are in the sheriff’s office," the Sheriff remarked.
Puett said the tax increase would bring immediate results to the department and the community. Criminal/drug/fugitive investigators, sergeants, patrol deputies and cyber crime/child exploitation investigator positions would be added, including competitive wages and implementing a compensation system for both experience and advanced certification and education.
The tax increase was brought to light during a recent Community Alliance survey. The commissioners office said 52% of those taking the survey feel strongly about safety and security in St. Joe. The commissioners took those results into consideration and thought something must be done.
"We have some real concerns because the drug problem and crime problem is not declining," said Presiding Commissioner Lee Sawyer. “We’re doing what the people’s asking us to do, and that is to increase the security for Buchanan County," said Western District Commissioner Ron Hook.
Sheriff Puett says if the tax does not pass, it will cause a chilling effect; more staff leaving, and crime rates continuing to rise up.
If passed, a quarter-cent increase would be implemented on January 1, bringing an additional $3.6 million to the Sheriff's Department and the drug task force. The last increase came in 1992.