Public Safety Tax To Appear On April Ballot


The Clinton City Council met in a work session the evening of February 6 at city hall. Most of the council members were present except Daniel Wilson; Councilman Roger House joined via phone. Fire Chief Mark Manuel and Police Chief Kevin Miller were in attendance.
City Administrator Christy Maggi had asked the council for some direction concerning the potential tax. Recall that the Clinton City Council recently approved the appearance of the Public Safety Tax to appear on the April ballot. The tax, if passed by voters, should generate about $1 million dollars annually. The funds are, by statute, ear-marked to be spent only on certain items in the public safety realm, but both the fire department and the police department know where it will be spent: to hire more personnel. Of the approximately $1.1 million dollar estimated revenue, the idea is to split equally the generated tax dollars evenly and fill in the ranks of the fire and police departments.
Both the fire and police departments have done their research: the fire department has equipment enough for six new hires and the police department has vehicles and other equipment on a purchase rotation that should not affect them adversely either. At the same time, the pay schedules for the police department would be revamped as well.
Some issues, such as higher ranked officers making less than the people they oversee, would be corrected, too. Police Chief Kevin Miller said it would also ultimately improve the culture of the police department and slow down officers from leaving the department who are seeking better pay. Clinton has lost several good officers in recent years who sought better opportunities in the private sector.
Although it may seem counter-intuitive, hiring more new personnel will actually ease some of the payroll expenses. Because of the shortage of staff for both the police and fire departments, overtime is a big issue – and a large chunk of the payroll expense. More staff will also make things safer for those patrolling or showing up to a fire and for the people in town, too; it will get both departments up to recommended standards personnel-wise. But it is best not to get too excited: even if the initial pay offering is up there are not exactly a lot of people knocking down doors to be police officers and/or firemen. Larger towns are notorious, however, for sucking up the new recruit pool because they offer the advantage of better pay.
Much of the work session was devoted to determining and clarifying what the tax – if passed – would generate and how it would be spent.
The remainder of the work session was to determine how to disseminate the information to the public so voters could make an informed decision at the ballot box this April. Some ideas included Facebook, radio and news ads as well as mailers and, of course, the city’s website.
Some key take-aways about the Public Safety Tax are: it should generate a little over $1 million per year to be split equally between the police and fire departments; it is a half-cent tax – which is about 50 cents per $100 spent at the store; Clinton’s current tax rate (8.1750%) would raise to 8.6750% which would still keep Clinton in the five lowest tax rates per towns in this area (under Warsaw, Butler, and Sedalia). The tax, if passed, will be to increase staffing at the fire and police departments. As Councilman Cameron Jackson put it: “It is to expand services.”