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Public safety reaps rewards of new tax

Submitted by City of Belton

So many good things have occurred to improve public safety since Belton residents invested in our city with the passage of the Public Safety Sales Tax (PSST) in November 2018:

• A new ambulance with state-of-the-art medical equipment

Interior of new ambulance

• Defibrillators and CPR machines to enhance emergency response to our citizens in need

• Ballistic protection for our police

• Filling of the six firefighter/EMT and six police officer positions frozen during the recession

• Addition of four new police officer positions

• New and updated computer equipment for our police department

• Additional police department patrol cars

Established in 1979, our general sales tax of 1 percent had never been increased. We were falling behind in measures that matter to our residents’ real and perceived sense of safety and security. In 2017:

• Our police department responded to 20,000 calls, a 23 percent increase over the last five years. Our fire department responded to 6,000 calls, a 50 percent increase over the same time period.

• Belton had 1.5 police officers for every 1,000 residents, versus the Midwestern average of 2.1 police officers per 1,000 residents.

• Our fire department staffed 11 versus the national standard of 17 to respond to a single-family house fire.

• The six police and six fire department positions that were frozen would not have been replaced, and as call volumes for each department continued to rise, their response times would have decreased.

• The exceptional ISO insurance rating of 2 on a scale of 1 to 10 held by our top-rated fire department could have been affected, resulting in higher insurance premiums for our residents.

Now, we have funding to turn this around.

The city council determines the allocation of the PSST proceeds while the public safety oversight committee ensures that the revenues are spent as the city council promised voters. Made up of your neighbors, fire and police representatives, the nine members of your public safety oversight committee held its first meeting in the fourth quarter of 2019. City staff and the city council liaison were also in attendance. The oversight committee will meet at least twice a year and will post an annual report of their findings. The next meeting will be held in April.


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