INDEPENDENCE, Mo. - What was supposed to be an information session on the Independence Police Tax issue, turned into an heated three hour debate between City Council members, police and citizens.
"I support the police. I do believe we need more police officers," said James Bailey, an Independence property owner. "But, I don't believe for one minute that this is going to be used to increase the number of police on our police force. We've had multiple opportunities for years now to hire staff and they have not made it a priority."
While Bailey supports the goal to improve safety in Independence, he'll vote no on the April 3 property ballot measure.
If the measure passes, residents would pay about $70 for every $100,000 the county says their home is worth. In turn that would generate $3.7 million a year for the police department to make additional hires and improve its resources.
Bailey's concern is that the $25 million from the city's general fund that currently supports the police department could go elsewhere since it'd be getting money from the increased property tax.
"If you don't want to pay the sales tax, you can go to Kansas City or you can go to Lee's Summit. Those of us who own property and live in Independence, we can't get away from it," Bailey said.
While there's no guarantee Bailey's theory could not happen, Independence City Manager Robert Haecock says that theory would defeat the whole purpose of the property tax.
"The intent of these resources is to provide additional staff and their associated equipment and resources. it's not to supplant existing resources," said Heacock.
Independence Police Chief Tom Dailey agreed, emphasizing the importance of what tax could do - if it passes, his department plans to hire 34 new officers and eight civilian positions while also getting new technology and increasing officers within its specialized units.
"You can't measure what you prevent," said Dailey. "Right now, when we answer radio, something has already happened. Our goal is to work at problem solving to prevent the crimes from happening, prevent the situations, so that's the whole key to this. Proactive policing is preventing crime from occurring."
If the tax (which is $0.3629 per $100 of assessed valuation) becomes a reality, homeowners could expect to pay an addition $68.95 per year for every $100,000 their home is worth. That rounds out to $5.75 per month. For businesses it would be about $117, or $9.75 per month, for every $100,000.
As of now, there are two information sessions left. The next meeting will be Thurs., March 8 at 6:30 p.m. at the Salvation Army Fellowship Hall. It's at 14700 E. Truman Road in Independence. The last meeting will be on Tues., March 20 at 6:30 p.m. at the Midwest Genealogy Center. It's at 2440 S. Lee's Summit Road in Independence.
The question appearing on the April 3 ballot will read: “Shall the city of Independence increase the general property tax rate of the city by $0.3629 per $100.00 of assessed valuation solely for the purpose of funding services provided by the Police Department of the city?”