Washington city officials are set to meet with Franklin County commissioners Monday to discuss the county’s plan to request a new half-cent sales tax on the April ballot.
Earlier this week the county commission presented plans to ask voters to approve a half-cent sales tax for jail improvements and public safety. If the commission moves forward with the request, the measure would be on the April 3, 2018, ballot, along with Washington’s request for an extension of its half-cent sales tax for capital improvement projects.
Washington City Administrator Darren Lamb said he and Mayor Sandy Lucy will meet with the commission Monday, Dec. 18, at 10 a.m. to figure out the extent of the county’s plans.
The county’s request for proposals for the jail expansion project in June included a mention of a public election in April 2018. Lamb said the city was unaware of the county’s plans to ask for a sales tax.
“We had a brief introduction to the topic at an event, but that was it,” he said. “We did not attend the meeting on Tuesday; however, our police chief was there.”
Lamb said he would not comment about the potential for dueling sales propositions on the same ballot. Lamb said he couldn’t remember multiple sales tax measures on the same ballot since the city’s capital tax was introduced in 1989.
Lamb said he wasn’t sure of the finer points of the county’s plans and hopes to have questions answered at Monday’s meeting. He did say there is a potential benefit for the city.
The county’s proposal includes using half the funds for the expansion of the county jail and half to help public safety salaries. The idea is to mimic the Proposition P voters passed in St. Louis County this year, which helped departments offer raises to officers. The effect of the raises has led to an exodus of officers from Franklin County, including multiple Washington police officers.
“We’re always concerned with staying competitive and losing our officers to other jurisdictions that have another incentive or another funding source for their salaries,” Lamb said. “We always want to provide the best protection for our citizens. If there’s some benefit to that, that’s the positive. But, like I said, I think the jury’s still out for us. The devil will be in the details as far as how the county wants to implement this. Hopefully that will be cleared up more on Monday.”
First District Commissioner Tim Brinker told The Missourian he looks forward to meeting with the city.
“This is an absolute for the April ballot,” Brinker said. “If it’s passed, it will be great for Franklin County.”
Second District Commissioner Dave Hinson said the jail expansion has to be sooner rather than later.
“The longer we delay this the worse the jail gets,” he said. “This has nothing to do with trying to one-up other communities.”
Lamb said the city is still hopeful its capital improvement tax gets approved by voters. Right now a committee is trying to narrow down a lengthy list of projects to fit under the projected revenue from the tax.
“I think we’re feeling good about things,” he said.
The likely big ticket item for the city’s tax will be a multi-million dollar aquatics complex. The committee is slated to review that project in depth Tuesday, Dec. 19, at 1 p.m.
“Hopefully we’ll have a little bit clearer idea about how we can move forward with the aquatics complex proposal,” Lamb said. “We hope to have some ideas and some concepts on how to move forward to serve the community with the complex.”
If voters vote down the city’s sale tax, Lamb said he was unsure how the city would move forward. He had said in past meetings losing the revenue would have a significant impact on the city’s budget and would result in cuts to city services moving forward.
Lamb said the city has not considered at this time if it would ask voters to reconsider the measure in August if the issue fails in April.