I often have cases of deja vu. You know, I dream about my wife yelling at me for something I forgot to do and then the next day my wife yells at me for something I forgot to do. It's really weird.
I had another case of deja vu last week. It happened when I read a story in our paper about a Sikeston City Council meeting. At this meeting, city officials decided they weren't going to support Scott County's attempt to make the countywide half-cent law enforcement sales tax on yesterday's ballot permanent. At first I was shocked. I didn't realize government bodies were ever against a tax. Of course, it was then that my deja vu took over.
Basically city officials didn't want the tax approved because they felt it would then be difficult, if not impossible, to get a citywide half-cent law enforcement tax approved. Here is where my deja vu comes in.
Go back in time to February 2004 when the voters approved a 1-cent general sales tax for 10 years to help fund the SAHEC (oh, I'm sorry, the Southeast Missouri State University-Sikeston) expansion and efforts of the Land Clearance Redevelopment Authority. Oh and I forgot. It was also passed to help fund the Sikeston Department of Public Safety.
As a matter of fact I remember DPS funding to be one of the major selling points at getting that tax passed. Paying the officers, getting fully staffed and the hopes of eventually building a new jail and fire station were all brought up time and time again.
Even I voted for the tax, because I, like many of you, believe that we need to have a police force that is well-paid. I mean they go through a lot of crap you and I can't even imagine, so yes they should be paid and we should do what we can to make sure they are fully-staffed.
And that is what I thought we did in February 2004, but apparently not. Now they are wanting to throw another tax at us because: DPS staffing is down, DPS officers aren't getting cost-of-living raises and there is a need for a city jail. Sound familiar?
Of course, officials say the tax we passed in 2004 isn't reaching the projected levels and the city's budget is being squeezed by health insurance premium increases, workers compensation insurance increases and higher fuel costs. My response to that is: tough. City administration needs to give DPS the money they promised when we passed the tax in 2004.
Guess what, higher fuel prices and higher costs are impacting me too. I want a new big screen television but I have to make choices. Either I pay my electric bill or I buy a television. I certainly don't have the option to raise taxes to help me.
Maybe it is time the city made some choices. Here is a choice for our esteemed council members. Better salaries for DPS officers or tear down a vacant house. I'm all for cleaning up the city but I would rather see a run-
down house than a DPS only half-staffed. Or better yet, how about not buying a new fire truck and putting that money into officer salaries.
It amazes me how our DPS can be so well equipped yet our officers be so poorly paid and staffed. DPS has received grants to help pay for a bomb robot, surveillance cameras, breathing apparatus, thermal imaging units and had even had some salaries paid for by grant dollars. Yet we approve a tax that will help pay for officer salaries and now the city can't even approve cost-of-living increase? So exactly where is the money from our tax increase going? Even if it wasn't generating what it was supposed to it should be generating some money, yet it sounds like DPS isn't getting any of it. What would have happened if we didn't pass the tax in 2004? Well, the city would be dipping into reserves which is what should happen now. I mean what are the reserves for?
DPS needs more money, but before city officials try to pass another tax maybe they should look elsewhere for money first. Besides, the city has lost all credibility by failing to follow through with their promise in 2004. What is to keep us from thinking the city won't do the same thing if another tax is passed? Then I'll have deja vu all over again.