Blue Springs voters will make a crucial choice on April 5 when they decide on a half-cent sale tax that would allow the city to add police officers and help it cover the costs of federally required communications upgrades.

Blue Springs public safety sales tax

Blue Springs voters will make a crucial choice on April 5 when they decide on a half-cent sale tax that would allow the city to add police officers and help it cover the costs of federally required communications upgrades.

With a couple of small reservations, we say the tax is a good idea.

Here’s the math. A half-cent would bring the city about $3 million a year. For that, the citizens get:

One extra cop on the street at any given time and better support for those front-line officers. The city would add seven patrol officers, two officers in the street crimes unit, four detention officers, an assistant deputy chief, an evidence custodian and an animal-control officer.
  Improvements to the police headquarters downtown.
  New, needed and mandated communications upgrades. The department would switch radio systems – there’s a Jan. 1, 2013, federal deadline – and upgrade the dispatch center.

And here are our only reservations. One is both philosophical and practical. The sales tax is regressive, that is, it hits low- and middle-income people disproportionately hard. We have said for years in this space that local governments cannot forever turn to added sales taxes to meet every new need, though Blue Springs has been pretty good on this point. But the stubborn fact is local governments have few alternatives. A second reservation is that the city chose not to put a sunset provision in the tax. We’d be more comfortable if this went back to the voters every five or 10 years. It improves government accountability.

The bigger issue for many will be the economy. I want a safe community, a voter may say, but can I afford that extra 50 cents on a $100 grocery bill? Here’s the thing: For the long-term growth that Blue Springs expects, certain fundamentals – good schools, good roads, safe neighborhoods – have to be in place. In that light, the 50 cents is money well spent. It will make the community a better place to live.



Fort Osage school bond

Sometimes a homeowner has no choice. The roof gets old and leaky and has to be replaced. That takes money that could have gone elsewhere, but it’s better than letting the house crumble.

That’s pretty much what Fort Osage School District voters are looking at on April 5 when they vote on $7.8 million in bonds. For the owner of a $100,000 home, that would add $22.57 to the annual property tax.

The leaky roof is pretty bad at Buckner Elementary. That needs to be fixed. The district also plans heating-and-cooling upgrades, lighting repairs at the football stadium and, if possible, improvements to science and home-ec rooms at Fort Osage High School.

Leaky roofs are more than a metaphor. At Buckner Elementary, they put wastebaskets under bad spot when it rains, but, inevitably, books and equipment get wet and damaged. All of that is demoralizing to students and staff, and it’s wasteful. It’s time to fix the roof.