STRAFFORD, Mo. – On November 8, voters will decide whether or not to pass a three-quarters of a cent sales tax.
This is the first sales tax on the ballot in nearly 42 years. The last tax passed was a general one-cent sales tax passed in 1980. If approved, funds from the three-quarters of a cent tax would go strictly to the Strafford Police Department.
The goal of the tax is to help attract and retain police officers. Strafford Police has not been fully staffed in at least a year.
“We have a sergeant, three officers and myself,” Police Chief Dennis Shook said. “One of the officers just started in the last couple of days and so he’s not on the street by himself.”
Shook said one of the issues behind the staffing shortage is pay. The department is funded for seven total officers through the city’s general funds.
“There are a couple big departments that rely on general fund police department being one and the other being the streets department,” City Administrator Martha Smart said. “What is challenging for us for trying to remedy the situation further than what we have is having to make decisions about what gets funded or what must be delayed.”
Starting pay for a police officer in Strafford is $18/hour. That is four dollars lower than what a starting officer would make in Greene County.
“A lot of the other departments start at a higher rate than we do,” Shook said. “With pay raises [it will] help with keeping us competitive so the officers that we hire and invest a lot of finances into don’t leave us to go somewhere else for higher pay.”
Right now, the department is not able to operate 24/7 due to staffing shortages. Other agencies like the Greene County Sheriff’s Office have stepped up to help out with coverage.
“I feel most for the citizens,” Shook said. “They would like to have an officer respond if they have a need and if we’re not here because we don’t have enough people and that’s what I feel the worst about, is not being able to respond to whatever it is they need, regardless of how severe or non-severe the situation may be.”
If approved, the city anticipates the tax to make $520,000 annually.
“[The tax] would be for all retail qualifying retail sales so whether that would be at a boutique or if that would be one of our local truck stops in their convenience store,” Smart said.
Although some voters are for the measure, they’re not necessarily for raising taxes.
“Lower taxes would would be definitely my preference,” Advanced Auto Care Owner Chip Broemmer said. “I have used the fire department and my business has been protected by the police department and I personally think they all do a good job. So and that’s why I would be I would be in favor of funding this particular issue. But I am not normally in favor of raising taxes.”
If approved, the city would start collecting the tax in the spring of 2023. If not approved, the department would continue relying on general funds.
The city is holding town hall meetings leading up to the election about the sales tax. All meetings will be held at city hall:
- Thursday, October 20 at 6:30 p.m.
- Saturday, October 22 at 10:00 a.m.
- Thursday, October 27 at 6:30 p.m.
- Tuesday, November 1 at 7:00 a.m.