Matt Mansell

As police departments in Franklin County struggle to keep officers from being lured away to higher paying departments, voter approval of a proposed special sales tax would go a long way toward making departments more competitive, according to Pacific Police Chief Matt Mansell.

Franklin County plans to place Prop P on the April 3 ballot asking voters to approve a half-cent sales tax for law enforcement.

One-half of the collected tax, or one-quarter cent, would go toward constructing a new Franklin County jail and communication facilities. The other half would go for salaries in the sheriff’s department and municipal police departments in the county.

Increasing salaries is critical for Pacific, Mansell said, which edges into St. Louis County where starting salaries are $58,000 a year, compared with $38,000 a year here.

“I wouldn’t just say I’m for Prop P,” Mansell said. “I’d say it is a necessity.”

First District Commissioner Tim Brinker said the decision to go to the voters became more pressing after St. Louis County voters passed their own Prop P, a police and public safety ballot measure.

“As a county, we have to compete with St. Louis County where departments pay much more,” Brinker said. “It’s pretty easy for officers to pack up and move to St. Louis County to earn $20,000 a year more. This makes it difficult to keep personnel.

“The one-quarter cent tax would go directly to law enforcement personnel in the county,” Brinker said.

Mansell said he attended a meeting Dec. 12 on this topic with the county commission as he’s eager to see the proposal put before voters.

The new tax would generate an estimated $6 million in revenue each year with half helping to fund the $30 million jail expansion and improvement project.

The other one-half, approximately $3 million, would go to the sheriff’s department and local police departments for salaries.

“The preliminary information we’ve been given suggests a little over $100,000 in new funding for city of Pacific law enforcement, if approved by voters,” Mansell said.

The chief said one of the greatest challenges to law enforcement in Franklin County, and in Pacific, has been the imbalance of officers’ pay with surrounding counties.

“I think the details of the proposal remain to be worked out, and I will participate in these discussions as requested or needed,” Mansell said. “I’ll do all I can to encourage voters to say yes.”

If Proposition P passes in April, the county and municipalities would begin seeing money as early as October.