Branson Makes First Fire Dept. Purchase After Sales Tax Increase

BRANSON, Mo. -- A public safety sales tax increase in Branson has already been put to good use, according to city officials. 

Voters approved the increase last November and new equipment has already been purchased for the police and fire departments. 

Fire Chief Tedd Martin says Branson saw a slight increase in the number of emergency calls in 2017, which has been the case in the last few years. 

"From medical calls, to rescue calls, to fire calls," said Martin.  

He says that's telling of the community's growth and public safety needs to keep up with it.  

"I think the public safety tax showed the commitment of the voters and the knowledge of the voters that public safety needs to be improved," Martin said.   

The money from that sales tax is expected to be used to improve facilities, increase manpower, and buy equipment. Assistant Police Chief Eric Schmitt says it's already doing the job the city promised it would. 

"We told the voters that one of our major priorities was the radio system and you can see this is our first expense," said Schmitt. 

Branson's first purchase in 2018 were 100 portable radios, which police and fire say will allow them to operate in a way they haven't before helping officers break some barriers. 

"If we have any kind of emergency where we have to team with the Highway Patrol, Sheriff's Office, or other surrounding agencies, currently, our radio system, we do not have that capability," said Schmitt. 

The new radios will allow Branson police and fire to communicate seamlessly with surrounding agencies. 

 "If I had to call my dispatch, to call another dispatch, to tell another responding officer, that's minutes and that's lives," Schmitt said.  

Saving lives, time and money - the radios were purchased at 50 percent off from a surplus at another department in the state of Missouri. 

"Using that as an example, I think we are committed, as a city, strategically, to be fiscally responsible with public safety tax," said Martin.  

The purchase saved Branson $330,000. 

"That's $330,000 we can apply to other public safety issues," Schmitt said.  

Including mobile radios for patrol cars and fire trucks, equipment for dispatch centers and new fire and police stations. 

Shoppers will start seeing that additional sales tax on April 1st. It's estimated this sales tax will generate $6 million annually for the next 25 years. 

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