The city of Centralia is proposing a half-cent sales tax increase to fund public safety.
City administrator Matt Harline says that this year’s budget keeps two police officers on duty at all times, with the knowledge that the general budget won’t be able to sustain these positions long term.
“The general fund for the city is being strained by the police department keeping two officers on at all times. If we continue at our current rate, there won’t be money in the fund to pay officers,” Centralia Police Department Sgt. Tim Kribbs said.
Harline said that having two officers on duty is of utmost importance for the safety of the officers and of the public.
“We want to give citizens the opportunity to maintain that higher level of police presence in the city,” Harline said. “It’s important for citizens to know that this level of protection comes at a cost and we can continue to do that if they’re willing to give us more money.”
In addition to keeping two officers on duty, the police department would use funds from the sales tax to appoint a School Resource Officer to build trust between students and the department.
When a student brought a gun to Centralia High School in February, police detained the student without incident. Kribbs attributes this kind of success to trust between students and police.
“Children don’t necessarily feel comfortable coming to a police officer. The officer that we have out there right now, I think a lot of our children feel comfortable coming to him and if they can come and speak to him about those issues, then I think we can head off a lot of things before they escalate,” Kribbs said.
Harline says Centralia needs state approval before residents can vote on the tax. Bills sponsored by state Sen. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia and state Rep. Cheri Toalson Reisch, R-Hallsville are making their way through the general assembly and would give voters the opportunity to decide on this tax.