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City of Republic proposes sales tax to support police and fire departments

Published: Jul. 8, 2021 at 4:42 PM CDT
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REPUBLIC, Mo. (KY3) - The city of Republic is asking voters to consider a proposed public safety tax that will be on the ballot August 3rd. The city says the three-quarter cent sales tax would go directly to the police and fire departments. It would allow the city to add 12 more police officers and 14 firefighters.

“What people probably don’t realize is, we’re at three officers on the road at one time anymore,” says Lieutenant Jamie Burks of the Republic Police Department.

The city says the police and fire departments haven’t grown in about 15 years. There are 24 police officers, but Burks says a city Republic’s size should have another dozen.

“We’ll pull somebody off of an accident where there should be three or four officers working, send one to a domestic where we should have at least two going,” Burks says. “And that’s unsafe for the officers. And it’s also quite frankly, unsafe for the people at the accident and the people of the domestic, not having adequate staff to deal with all those situations.”

The city says Republic Fire Department is also short staffed.

“We had a fire in early March, that we actually had to call a mutual aid from Battlefield, Billings and different places,” says Republic City Administrator David Cameron. “And it took a total response time of over 30 minutes to get the adequate staffing to even fight that fire. So it’s not that we can’t respond, we just can’t respond with enough personnel to adequately fight the fire like we should.”

The proposed public safety tax would add a 3/4 cent sales tax in Republic for police and fire department staff, pay increases, and retirement benefits. The city says it doesn’t have a dedicated property tax for fire protection like cities of similar size, and the $256,000 in CARES Act funding it received won’t cover what the departments need.

“We’re growing at a rapid pace, and so we have to be able to facilitate that growth with the public safety side as well,” Cameron says.

Citizens understand the importance of emergency crews.

“Their response time is very important,” says Republic resident Lynette Hornung. “Especially if it’s an emergency like a fire, and there’s somebody in the house.”

But she believe the city streets need some attention too.

“They are very hard to navigate, especially if you have disabilities such as I have,” Hornung says. “I can’t walk on the streets.”

The city hopes voters will be willing to support the public safety sales tax, which will be shared with every person who shops in Republic.

“If there’s a wreck on U.S. 60, there’s no guarantee it’s just a Republic resident,” says Cameron. “It could be anybody.”

“It’s a discredit to not only our officers and our firefighters, but the citizens Republic, that we can’t provide them the service that they deserve,” says Burks.

The city feels confident that if the tax passes and it is able to offer competitive wages, it can find the additional firefighters and police officers.

To read more about the proposed public safety sales tax, visit https://www.republicmo.com/703/Public-Safety-Sales-Tax-Proposition

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