Smart Decision 2014: Columbia says no to Proposition One

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COLUMBIA - Columbia residents voted against Proposition One at the polls Tuesday. The proposition would have increase property taxes to help fund safety personnel and procedures in the city.

Proposition One would have raised taxes for Columbia homeowners by 30 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, over a five year period, to support the city's police and fire departments. The city planned to use the funds for additional staffing and operations costs.

That would have included employing and training new police officers and firefighters. City officials wanted to staff 40 police officers and 15 firefighters over a five-year period.

Columbia Mayor McDavid said the city will have to find a way to fund the city's needs with a growing population.

"Revenue is declining so we rely on sales tax and the revenue of the general fund has dropped 12.5 percent in the last 10 years. Since the biggest part of the general fund is public safety, public safety staffing has declined by 12.5 percent," McDavid said.

Columbia police told KOMU 8 News the department is currently dealing with a status zero situation daily. When the department reaches status zero, every officer on duty is occupied responding to calls, delaying additional response times. City officials said additional funds from the tax increase would have helped close that gap.

Columbia Battalion Chief Brad Fraizer said the fire department has to work around the setback to protect residents.

"We would continue to look for creative ways to provide the level of service that the community expects from the Columbia Fire Department and think outside the box," he said. 

Funds from the increased property taxes would have also gone toward fully staffing Columbia fire stations in an attempt to reduce response times.

Forty percent of Columbia residents voted for the tax increase with 10,425 votes. Sixty percent of voters opted against the increase with 15,516 votes.