A public safety services-related sales tax proposal will not appear on November’s ballot in Independence.

A public safety services-related sales tax proposal will not appear on November’s ballot in Independence.

It is still unknown if a police or fire – or both – sales tax increase initiatives will appear on the February ballot in a special election, according to City Manager Robert Heacock.

City officials had contemplated whether to put an ordinance on Monday night’s Independence City Council agenda that would have allowed a Nov. 2 ballot question asking for a sales tax increase for more police personnel. New 2010 U.S. Census Bureau data for Independence expected in March 2011 will affect an existing Missouri statute that allows the use of a sales tax for police personnel in cities of a specific population.

Today is the deadline for an issue to be placed on the Nov. 2 ballot.

The decision followed the recent release of the City Council-appointed public safety services task force’s recommendation for more Independence police and fire staff and how to possibly fund those personnel.

“The overwhelming sense was just that we all needed to have more discussion and we needed to include the community,” said Heacock regarding his discussions with city staff and with individual City Council members. “We need to allow public opinion on the report. ... It has to be a community-and-Council decision. It can be recommended by staff, but for me to put that before them on this agenda would have been premature.”

Heacock said the postponement of a decision will allow more opportunity for public outreach and discussion about the task force’s final report and recommendations and about the best option for funding additional resources.

Heacock called the report’s statements “well-made, succinct and reinforce much of what the staff has been saying the last couple of years regarding the needs.”

“We see the trends, and they are not positive in terms of our ability to respond in a timely fashion that we believe the public would want us to,” Heacock said of police response times, especially for Type 1 calls. “We’ve tried to do internal changes to make the department as efficient as possible.”

City staff plan to present the task force report during a September study session, “which would allow the council to weigh in after reviewing the report,” Heacock said. He also said the full report will be made available soon to the public through the city’s website, www.indepmo.org.  

The task force’s final report doesn’t offer a specific recommendation for funding additional police and fire personnel, though members had said in meetings that City Council members should consider a mix of sales and real estate tax increases in their proposal to voters.

“There’s no easy path for additional resources,” Heacock said. “Obviously, a tax increase at this time is going to be difficult for a lot of people to be able to afford. We have to make sure that the results are going to be there and that the plan will be explained the right way.”