JEFFERSON CITY - On Tuesday, a special election will be held for a proposed public safety tax in Jefferson City.

Residents can vote for the installment of a one-quarter of a cent tax. If passed, the tax would increase salaries for Jefferson City Fire and Police Departments. The money would also go toward equipment for both departments. 

James Noah is the vice president of the Local 671 union for Jefferson City firefighters. Noah said in 2016, the department did a salary study. 

"[We] found that we were below the average salary for departments like municipalities and we have not seen a fix since that salary study," Noah explained.

According to previous KOMU 8 reporting, the 2020 Jefferson City Police Department incident data showed the retention rate for officers and firefighters was 24%.

If the safety tax is passed, the funds would “be an implementation to potentially move us up to a comparable, competitive pay scale and retain and recruit qualified applicants,” Noah said. 

Both Jefferson City police and fire departments want the pay plan to drive up recruitment.

“Hopefully being able to draw some more applicants in that are looking at other municipalities,” Noah said. 

Noah said for the fire department specifically, they need to develop a progressive play plan for employees, based on experience, capability and tenure.

As for Jefferson City residents, Noah said they are making sure it's not impactful for just one specific entity. This tax will be spread throughout the county. 

“Well, the good thing with it being a public safety tax, it will collect a tax from outside community members or non-community members," Noah said. 

In addition to increasing the starting salary for officers, JCPD would use the money to buy equipment, such as body cameras and the recording equipment. Jefferson City is currently one of four places in Missouri with a population from 20,000 to 80,000 people that does not have body camera equipment.

President of the Jefferson City Police Officers Association Jeremy Bowman said the body cameras have a lot of moving parts. The department would also need to buy the servers, the equipment for the servers and the storage. It would also need to provide staffing to help support all of the information.

If passed, the collection for the tax would begin in April. The funds would be utilized as public safety taxes specifically for police and fire. The new safety tax is projected to bring in $2.8 million annually. 

The polls will open at 6 a.m. on Tuesday and close at 7 p.m. Voters can view a sample ballot here.

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