City seeks to renew emergency services sales tax
Five years ago, Bonner Springs Police Sgt. Tom Haas faced a harrowing situation.
In the driveway of a Bonner home, Haas and Officer Anthony Davis confronted an armed, suicidal man who opened fire. Though Haas eventually shot the man’s firing hand, he continued to threaten the police officers with two hunting knives.
Haas was able to cover the man while Davis used a Taser — a device relatively new to the officers at that time. Had it not been for the Taser, Davis likely would have had to use Mace and possibly his baton to subdue the man, a situation in which Davis or the man might have been seriously injured.
“He was mad about being tasered, but he wasn’t hurt,” Haas said. “It took him out of the fight.”
The Tasers used by Bonner Springs police officers are among nearly $3.9 million of equipment and other items benefiting the city’s public safety departments that have been purchased in the last nine years. Those funds were generated from a quarter-cent sales tax passed by voters in 2003.
The tax ends in 2013, and the city is asking voters on Nov. 6 to renew the tax for another 10 years.
Had the sales tax not been in place, city officials say the city would have had to increase its property taxes by 6.36 mills each of the past nine years in order to purchase all that the tax has funded — equal to $968 annually for the average homeowner in Bonner, based on the median value of a residential home in Bonner Springs, $147,100.
In comparison, city officials estimated, using an IRS sales tax estimator, that the cost paid through sales taxes for a resident with an average income, $56,630 for Bonner Springs, and a household of three was $370.
One of the largest uses of the tax has been to finance remodeling and expansion of the fire/EMS station, which was completed in 2010. If the sales tax is not renewed, the city will have to find other ways to fund the payments and replace police vehicles and ambulances. City officials say the cost would be equivalent to a property tax increase of 5.99 mills.
Of the $4 million the tax has generated, $1.9 million has gone to the fire department for new emergency response apparatus; $665,323 to EMS, largely for four ambulances; and $417,547 to the police department. Miscellaneous items, such as the fire/EMS Station debt payments, generators and radios, totaled $916,526.
Haas said police officers benefit from sales tax-funded items daily. He noted the renovations to the new patrol and administration building and a new roof and air-conditioning unit for the former police station, now dedicated to the investigation division.
There’s the digital in-car video systems, which he said protect both the officer and the public in many ways. For example, they record suspects being transported in a patrol car and automatically upload video to a server when the officer pulls into the police station, so no one can claim that an officer erased evidence that they hurt the suspect or did something wrong.
Then there are the patrol cars themselves: seven new vehicles have been purchased through the tax, including two Dodge Chargers.
“The way I put it, the officer doesn’t have an office — the patrol car is the office,” Haas said. “They are in that car for eight to 12 hours, so it’s nice to have a decent car to drive in.”
No formal opposition to the sales tax question has been formed. Watch for more information about residents’ thoughts on the sales tax in next week’s issue of The Chieftain.