Newton County sending public safety tax to the ballot

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NEWTON COUNTY, Mo. — Newton County voters will decide whether to add a half cent sales tax this Spring.

The Public Safety Sales Tax would benefit a wide range of law enforcement agencies.

And that list starts with emergency dispatch and the shrinking funding it gets from landlines.

Chancy Huntzinger, Newton County Central Dispatch, said, “Currently that’s the only thing funding 911.”

Those landline taxes are estimated to drop 7% per year.

In fact, the county has had to subsidize the Central Dispatch Center, or CDC, with an extra 1.8 million dollars in the last decade.

The proposed 1/2 cent sales tax would boost funding.

“We want to improve our training, we want to address competitive wage rates. Um we want to add integrated text to 911.”

The 911 call center also wants to hire new dispatchers and improve technology support.

45% of the sales tax, or about 1.5 million dollars a year, is earmarked for the CDC.

Another 20% would go to the sheriff.

Newton County Sheriff Chris Jennings, said, “Our hope is to put additional manpower on, with deputies. we haven’t had an increase in years.”

Sheriff Chris Jennings also wants to upgrade his flee to newer vehicles, buy new equipment like body cameras.

“I know that’s a growing trend across the nation, but it’s an extremely expensive trend.”

The jail also needs more space, possibly a new pod for general housing or more specialized space for inmates with medical needs.

“We currently have two medical cells we had to create on our own and here recently we’ve had as many as six people needing medical cells.”

Another 20% of the proposed tax would go toward capital improvements, and 10% to reserves.

A five percent share of the tax would be split among the Seneca, Granby, and Diamond Police Departments.

And there would also be a $100,000 grant program.

Voters will decide the question on April 7th.

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