Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Loss of earnings tax would cut police services

Today is the primary election for City Council in Kansas City. Another election is coming up soon that will put the city's earning tax to a vote, and that could have a major effect on the police department. This article from our Informant newsletter explains why:

The Kansas City Missouri Police Department could go back to the same staffing it had in 1963 if residents vote down the extension of the 1 percent earnings tax in April.

Members of the department are working with City staff to educate the public about what cuts would be necessary should the city lose the 40 percent of its operating budget that is funded by the E-tax.

Since the 1960s, all who live and work in Kansas City and St. Louis have paid 1 percent of their earnings to these cities. That represents $200 million annually for Kansas City, which is roughly the entire annual funding of the police department. In November 2010, voters statewide approved Proposition A, which requires the two cities to vote every five years to renew the tax. If the tax fails, it will be phased out over a 10-year period.

By the end of that 10 years, Deputy Chief Cy Ritter said KCPD would have to eliminate more than 500 law enforcement positions and close to 400 civilian positions – bringing it back to the same staffing it had 50 years ago.

“We don’t want to be negative or scare people, but facts are facts,” Deputy Chief Ritter said at the January 20 Board of Police Commissioners meeting.

Several elements that have been added through E-tax funds that could be cut if the tax renewal fails include:

* Shoal Creek Patrol Division

* Helicopter Section

* Canine Section

* Drug Enforcement Unit

* Crimes Against Children Section

* Cold Case investigative elements

* D.A.R.E.

* Police Athletic League

* Community Interaction Officers

* School Resource Officers

* Community Action Network Centers

Deputy Chief Ritter also said police would have to significantly reduce or eliminate their response to certain calls for service, such as non-injury accidents, burglaries, fraud and forgery.

Mayor Mark Funkhouser said at the Board meeting the City has no plans to make up for lost E-tax funds through other means.

“We’re not going to replace the revenue somewhere else,” he said. “There will be cuts.”

Board Treasurer Angela Wasson-Hunt said it was important to get across the message of what cuts could face the police department should the E-tax renewal fail, especially to Northland residents. Although Proposition A passed statewide by 68 percent, it only passed in Kansas City by 52 percent. Most of the support came from north of the River, according to the Kansas City Star.

Wasson-Hunt said she wanted Northlanders to realize the impact of reduced funds on police.

“Services would be reduced so much,” Wasson-Hunt said.

Deputy Chief Ritter said it wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume one of the two patrol division stations north of the Missouri River would have to close if the E-tax extension fails.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org.