Sales tax hike in Buckner ends with tie vote, leaving future of police force in question

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BUCKNER, Mo. -- Every vote counts is a mantra you hear that a lot with elections. It was proven very true for a sales tax initiative in Buckner.

A 1% increase would've helped fund the police department and other city programs. The final result: 145 "yes" votes and 145 "no" votes.

The split vote is now leaving a lot of questions about the Buckner Police Department and whether it's even sustainable in the future.

Buckner is home to just 3,000 people. It's got a budget for eight police officers, but the department is used to working with a lot less.

"Our problem is we just can't seem to draw enough applicants to our small department to sometimes fill the need. So we go several months before we finally find enough," Buckner Police Chief Mike Buffalow said.

Between a military deployment and officers moving on to jobs with other agencies, Buckner could have just three cops on the streets in a matter of weeks.

That's why the department was hoping voters would green light the sales tax hike to boost officer pay and upgrade equipment, to help retain and recruit officers, while also back-filling other city funds.

"Obviously we're disappointed," Buffalow said. "As we move forward, we're going to try to maintain the operation as best we can. But how we move forward and what that's going to look like is up to the board of aldermen."

Some residents and local businesses fear the shrinking police force could mean the department eventually disappears, forcing the city to contract with another agency.

"I don't know how comfortable I would be if we didn't have any police force down here at all. Guess that remains to be seen," said Anita Jonas, owner of Clarity Gluten Free Shop in Buckner.

As the city tackles those tough questions, Jonas is hoping the community will get involved in the process.

"That's something we'll having to be paying attention to I think," Jonas said.

The city's board of aldermen is expected to start discussion on what happens next at its meeting this Thursday.

Next Thursday, Nov. 14, the Jackson County Election Board will certify election results, followed by a hand recount of all the ballots cast in Buckner.

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