COLUMBIA — In response to recent calls for additional officers in the Columbia Police Department, Mayor Bob McDavid proposed Monday to increase property taxes to pay for 35 new officers.
McDavid proposed submitting a ballot measure that would call for a 20-cent increase in property taxes to pay for the new officers in the Columbia Police Department.
The city currently collects 41 cents for every $100 of assessed value, according to budget documents. The increase would raise that to 61 cents per $100 of assessed value.
A homeowner whose property is assessed at $150,000 would pay an additional $57 per year, John Blattel, city finance director, said.
The ballot initiative could be put to the voters in November for approval or rejection.
"I believe we have too much crime in Columbia, I believe we have an incipient gang problem in Columbia, and I believe our Police Department is understaffed, so making Columbia safer is a choice," McDavid said. "We can do this together, but we're going to have to pay for it."
McDavid said that the city receives $7 million a year from property tax revenue and the proposed increase, which could be added to a public ballot in November, would cover the $3.5 million needed to hire the new officers.
The average cost for a police officer is $100,000 a year for salary, retirement benefits and equipment, McDavid said.
Columbia Police Chief Ken Burton said that if the ballot measure passed it would take almost a year before the officers were recruited, trained and ready to patrol.
An internal Police Department memo from earlier this year, written by Capt. Brian Richenberger, said the patrol division would need an additional 19 to 30 officers to "adequately provide police services."
The Police Department was budgeted for 160 sworn officers in the 2012 and 2013 fiscal years, according to budget documents.
According to the Uniform Crime Reports provided by the statistical analysis center, the Columbia police had 156 sworn officers in 2012.
In July, City Manager Mike Matthes proposed hiring two full-time officers and a sergeant for the Police Department. The budget proposed using reductions in other parts of the budget to pay for new hires.
Supervising editor is Zachary Matson.