OZARK, Mo. – On November 8, voters in Christian County will decide whether or not to approve a Use Tax dedicated to public safety.
“The use tax is going to be collected by the vendor that’s out of state and it’s on online purchases only,” Mayor Bradley Jackson said. “So if you shop inside the city of Ozark, a brick-and-mortar business, you won’t be paying this tax. If you buy something online from a vendor inside the state of Missouri, you will not be paying this tax.”
The 2.375 percent tax would go towards three items deemed necessary by the Ozark Police Department: adding more officers, and police cars, and building a new headquarters.
“We would add at minimum, probably seven officers over the course of about four or five years,” Police Chief Justin Arnold said. “That would get us up to where we feel it’s right for our population, also for our workload and our calls that we experience from the public. They would be doing things like community engagement, crime prevention, things like that.”
Arnold said the department gets several applicants from out of the area. But, a concern of some of the applicants is the current facility.
“We moved into this facility in 2005,” Arnold said. “It was not designed to be a police facility, nor does it function very effectively or efficiently as a police facility.”
One of the concerns Arnold brought up with the current facility is not enough space.
“We don’t have locker rooms for our staff,” Arnold said. “So when our staff encounters blood or gasoline or any other hazardous material or substance out on the street, we don’t even have a place for them to come back to the facility and shower and properly decontaminate. Instead, we oftentimes have to send those officers home with whatever substance it is that’s on their uniform or on their boots.”
Arnold said the department also needs more space for evidence. Currently, Arnold said 20 to 30 percent of the department headquarters is filled up with onsite evidence. Additionally, the department needs more patrol cars.
If voters approve the tax, the money would be separate from the funds the department receives from the general budget. Right now, Arnold said the police department’s budget is around $4.1 million.
“Over the last three years, 70 percent of all growth of our funds received by the city have been sent back to the police department through our budget allocation,” Arnold said. “However, these big items like adding a lot of staff or finding a solution for our facility and even police cars, it’s not enough.”
If voters do not approve of the use tax, the police department would have to consider cutting certain programs.
“We offer community fingerprinting and things like that for our community to come in, to be able to be fingerprinted for different careers,” Arnold said. “We’re having to really curtail that a lot already and pretty soon will probably have to be eliminated because of the space that it occupies. We have to turn that into a more usable space for what our demands are now and then.”
The tax would not have to be renewed if voters approve it.