Grandview voters may choose to raise sales tax to support public safety

Posted at 11:05 AM, Jan 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-15 12:05:48-05

GRANDVIEW, Mo. — Residents of Grandview have a chance to ramp up police and fire forces, something the departments say is necessary.

A half percent public safety sales tax introduced by the city’s Aldermen will be an option for voters on April 3.

For example, on a $6 fast food meal that would be an additional 3 cents. It would add 15 cents to the cost of a $30 shirt.

Grandview Chief of Police Charles Iseman said currently they are staffed about four people short.

If voters said ‘yes’ to the sales tax increase, it could mean an additional $1.3 million in funds to be split between police and fire.

In that instance, Iseman could use some of that money to draw in prospects and retain officers.

“We want to provide a higher and better level of service to the citizens of Grandview,” explained Iseman.

Iseman, city leaders, and Fire Chief Ron Graham are working together on plans that would do just that.

Iseman said if the tax is passed, the department may ask for seven additional employees. That would be two traffic/special operations officers, an IT tech, two civilian courtesy officers and two detectives.

"There are a lot of cases we would like investigated but because of the volume and few number of detectives we have, they’re not investigated,” explained Iseman.

The fire department would like to add six firefighters/paramedics.  

Right now in Grandview they only operate two ambulances at a time and serve a population of between 25,000-26,000.

Graham said if more than two medical emergencies happen at the same time, they have to call in an ambulance from a surrounding city. That can lead to delayed wait times.

“We want to put another ambulance in service. We need three. This city needs three in service,” said Graham.

He explained they typically have 11 to 14 firefighters working at one time, which includes four EMT/paramedics that double as firefighters.

Graham said they need 15 crew members to fight a fire and always call upon surrounding cities.

Resident Josh Campbell said he used to be a lifeguard and took the same classes EMTs do.

“Whether it’s somebody choking or going into cardiac arrest, I know the job can be difficult,” said Campbell, who said he would vote for the measure.

His coworker Ronnell Winfrey said he hopes both fire and police have adequate staffing because that’s who you call in emergencies.

“What if my family’s house was on fire? I would want people there to help,” said Winfrey.

Graham said their staffing levels have remained the same for 10 years. He said the opposite is true for medical and fire calls, which have climbed 10 percent each year since 2015.

IAFF Local 42 had requested the city put it to a vote in 2017, however the city said it had a few other measures it needed to address current issues.

In August 2017, voters passed a capital improvement sales tax. That is used for new infrastructure, building maintenance and equipment for police and fire.

In November 2017, voters passed a local use tax, which is a tax for motor vehicles and certain online purchases.

The city said it supports the measure proposed by the Aldermen. The following is the letter the city sent.

Grandview residents will have an important decision to make this spring. Tonight, the Grandview Board of Aldermen voted to place a ½-cent Public Safety Sales Tax on the April 3 ballot. 

“The safety of our citizens, visitors and our public safety staff is always a first priority for the City,” said Mayor Leonard Jones. “This ½-cent will help protect everyone as Grandview continues to be one of the fastest-growing cities in Jackson County.” 

If approved, the Public Safety Sales Tax is expected to raise an additional $1 million-$1.3 million in annual revenue to be used for Grandview Police and Fire Departments. The funds would be used only for the purpose of improving public safety of the City.