Keep the 1/4 Cent Sales Tax

BLYTHEVILLE (KAIT) It's always difficult for cities to bring in the revenue they need to spend.

Blytheville currently has a 1/4 cent sales tax that is due to run out.

The mayor wants the tax to stay-- and fund the city's police and fire departments.

Mayor Barrett Harrison, "What we have going for us here, this one was already on the books. This one was about to sunset. What we are asking the people to do is to allow us to keep it permanently to properly fund the police and fire departments."

The current sales tax money flows into the general fund. With voter approval the tax will give a much needed boost to police and firefighters.

Police Chief Ross Thompson, "We want to look at our personnel at our staffing and our pay and we would like to increase both of those."

Fire Chief Ivory Diamond, "I can't compete pay wise with other cities of this size. And what they'll do is for various reasons they'll go and put in job applications for those departments."

It costs thousands to train and equip fire fighters and police officers just to have them go to larger cities.

Harrison, "You see these billboards advertising for trained police officers offering signing bonuses, big paychecks to move."

Besides pay raises each department will need new equipment periodically.

Diamond, "The average fire truck that carries a thousand gallons of water and equipped to carry 4 firefighters it costs somewhere in the vicinity of 2 Hundred to 3 Hundred Fifty Thousand dollars."

Thompson, "Some equipment needs that as far as some police units and stuff like this that you have to replace on a regular basis as well."

Chief Thompson says he would like to consider a new justice complex some time in the future.

Of a more immediate need is a new fire station on the east side of Blytheville to keep coverage up and insurance costs low.

Harrison, "We are at a class 3 rating. If it were to go up to a class 5 everybody's insurance rates would go up."

Diamond, "And if we lose that rating believe it or not it would cause our insurance premiums to go up so high it would be too expensive for the citizens to bear."

Again the money would be earmarked solely for police and fire departments.

Harrison, "No new taxes were just asking to keep what's already on the books."

The city will be able to vote on the sales tax measure on February 10th.