By Monte Miller
Missourian Staff Writer
Washington city officials do not support the current funding formula outlined in the Franklin County’s Proposition P sales tax proposal.
The Missourian obtained a letter addressed to Franklin County from Washington Mayor Sandy Lucy explaining the city’s stance on the distribution of funds that will be generated by the half-cent sales tax.
The letter states, “If the county continues to pursue this distribution based on the number of (police) officers, the city will consider passing a resolution of nonsupport of the tax.”
The city council meets Monday night and the letter is on the agenda for discussion.
Prop P will appear 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.
Lucy told The Missourian that five of the eight council members agreed the city should send the letter.
“One other member said it should be even harsher,” she said. “Everybody has questions and comments.”
The letter also was sent to Union City Administrator Russell Rost and Sullivan City Administrator J. T. Hardy. Lucy said Washington officials have had conversations with those officials in the past few weeks.
Lucy said the letter was composed in response to repeated requests to meet one-on-one to discuss the distribution of sales tax funds, citing Washington would be contributing more sales tax money to Proposition P than it would be receiving back.
“As of now it’s in the county’s lap,” she said. “Let’s have a dialogue. We have a different formula, we just want a conversation.”
Lucy added she hopes a compromise can be reached and a formal resolution of nonsupport of the tax isn’t necessary.
“I hope we don’t have to pull our support,” she said. “We don’t want this to be personal, but we have citizens coming to us asking questions and we are the biggest voting bloc.”
Franklin County Commissioners John Griesheimer, Tim Brinker and Dave Hinson say there will be no further debate on distributions or any other Proposition P issues and the county will go ahead with or without Washington’s support.
All three are upset with the city of Washington’s last-minute threats.
Presiding Commissioner John Griesheimer, who earlier this week admitted the proposition wouldn’t please everyone, said he wants to get something passed and then tweak it in the future.
“We’re done,” Griesheimer said. “We are going to move forward.”
Second District Commissioner Dave Hinson, who owns a business in Washington, said the city’s actions could look petty.
“If the council does pass a resolution against Prop P, I don’t believe they will have the support of the people,” Hinson said. “This formula was agreed to by everyone else in the group and now this decision was made by Washington in the 11th hour.”
Hinson added Washington will not be losing tax dollars and stated he would be more than willing to sit down and explain how the tax dollars are collected and disbursed.
“They obviously don’t understand how the system works,” he said.
First District Commissioner Tim Brinker says the county has received 100 percent support from all other entities involved during public meetings and is upset with the way the letter was sent to the commission.
“I came by this through happenstance,” he said. “To say professional courtesy was thrown out the window is an understatement.”
Brinker added for the city to take the stance that law enforcement needs end at the city limits is absurd and Washington residents are being protected and benefiting no matter where they are in the county.
“With this letter the city is saying they don’t care about their citizens’ safety after they leave Washington,” Brinker said.
In response to the letter, Brinker met exclusively with Lucy and City Administrator Darren Lamb Thursday evening to discuss their concerns.
Lucy said the meeting was pleasant and Brinker agreed to investigate the language in the commission order set for Tuesday morning to possibly include a yearly review of the distributions.
Mayor Lucy said the letter and the nonsupport resolution are still on the agenda for the Washington City Council meeting and will be discussed Tuesday night for an official vote.
At a meeting Jan. 2, all cities and law enforcement agencies benefiting from Prop P funds, except Washington, agreed to distribute the money based on the number of commissioned officers in each respective department.
Approximately $1.1 million in sales tax revenue would be generated from businesses in Washington.
With the current funding formula based on number of officers, the city would receive just under $376,000 in Prop P funds.
In the letter to the county, Washington officials instead propose distributing the proceeds of Proposition P on the average of sales tax generated, population and number of officers and requests an annual review.
The letter states that sales tax generated reaches far beyond municipal limits.
“Therefore we do not propose receiving $1.1 million, which is what would be generated on a quarter-cent sales tax from Washington businesses; however, receiving $637,432 compared to $375,956 of what was proposed using only revenue based on officers is more equitable.”
The letter concludes with the city welcoming the opportunity for the voters to level the playing field for law enforcement in the St. Louis region.
The Franklin County Commission is expected to vote on the finalized Proposition P provisions and ballot language at its regular meeting Tuesday.
The commission will then have until Jan. 23 to officially file the referendum to appear on the April 3 ballot.