While city officials are still learning exactly what a jail/911 tax dubbed Proposition P will entail, Union Police Chief Norman Brune said there is “a real problem developing and we need to address it in some manner.”
“Proposition P is a good step forward in addressing the problem,” Brune said.
Franklin County voters will see a ballot proposition in April geared toward funding a $30 million jail/911 expansion project and keeping law enforcement officers in Franklin County with better pay.
If successful, the new half-cent tax is expected to generate $6 million annually and will have no sunset clause.
Half, or $3 million, will be dispersed to all law enforcement agencies in the county to help communities better equip and retain existing personnel, as well as hire new officers at a competitive salary as needed.
The other $3 million per year will go toward debt service for the estimated $30.8 million county jail and 911 expansion.
Brune said that as surrounding counties pass taxes and increase salaries for officers, Union risks losing quality officers to better pay outside of the county.
“It’s been the consensus that we’re going to find it much harder to find quality personnel in Franklin County and possibly lose officers we already have (if something isn’t done),” Brune said.
Before St. Louis County passed a tax, Brune said it was common to get 100 applications for an officer position. With the most recent openings at the department, “we had very few applications.”
Brune said the pay discrepancies have made a tremendous difference, and while the city may not be able to match salaries offered in St. Louis County, “we need to close the gap some,” Brune said.
“We’ve always received great support from our citizens, and that’s what has kept a lot of our officers here,” he said. “Union is a great place to work. We are appreciated and it shows.”
First District Commissioner Tim Brinker says he looks forward to the exchange.
“This is an absolute for the April ballot,” Brinker said. “If it’s passed, it will be great for Franklin County.”