Proposition 1 failure leaves fire and police understaffed

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COLUMBIA - The outcome of Tuesday's election left the Columbia Fire Department back where it started: without enough staff members to serve the community, according to Battalion Chief Brad Fraizer.

Voters rejected a proposed tax to fund extra staffing and procedures.

Karen Taylor, Chair of a committee in support of the proposition, the Yes for Public Safety Committee, said the fight to add more safety officers is not over.

"Public safety is just too important to say, 'well that's it.' I have confidence the city will be working toward whatever we can do," Taylor said.

Fraizer said, "We have seen a steady increase in response times and that is because the community continues to grow. However, Columbia fire department staffing remains the same."

Approximately 12.6 percent of calls to the Columbia Fire Department took more than the more than the nationally recommended 4 minutes in 2013.

He said the lag in response times is caused, in part, by not being able to employ enough firefighters.

"Additional personnel distributed throughout the city would no doubt have a positive impact on response times. "

City officials said no alternative plans are yet in place to raise funds for additional policemen and firefighters.

The proposition would have raised property taxes over the course of 5 years. The final product would have cost property taxpayers an extra 30 cents for every $100 in estimated value.

Funds raised from the property tax would have gone toward hiring 40 new police officers and 15 firefighters.

Nearly 60 percent of voters agreed they were not willing to enact the tax.

Several opponents said money for new staff members should come from the city budget, rather than property taxes.