While I support the idea of additional police and firefighters for the City of Columbia, I will be voting NO on Proposition 1 on 11/4.
The proposition being put forth by proponents is easy enough to understand: although Columbia has grown from about 84,500 people in 2000 to 115,000 today, our police force is about the same as it was in 2000, and proponents argue we need to increase property taxes to add public safety personnel.
However, this seems to me to be a case of poor fiscal management on the part of the city being made to be the problem of taxpayers.
One would suspect that an increase in population would bring with it an increase in tax revenue, and it has. A quick look at the numbers shows that the total city budget increased from $178 million in 2000 to nearly $390 million in 2014 - a 119% increase.
However, our police department budget from 2000 to 2014 only increased from $11 million to $19.9 million - just an 81% increase.
Looking at more recent comparisons, it becomes clear that the city has decided to make funding increases for other city departments a priority at the expense of the police department. From 2012 to 2014, city council administrative expenses increased 312%. Administrative expenses for the city managers office increased 38%. Our convention & tourism fund increased 29%. Our police department funding increased 5%.
Despite having a city with explosive growth, the city hasn't made growing the police department a priority with the revenues they already have. Now they want the taxpayers to carry the burden of paying more.
To be fair to the tax increase proponents, I conducted my research in less than a half hour by glancing at a few city budgets. I'm sure it can be argued that the truth is more complicated. In fact, I know it is.
But the numbers are real numbers. They are in black and white for everyone to see. Until the city convinces me that that there are absolutely no other alternatives to increasing the staffing level of our police department (i.e. cutting back in other areas we don't need), my vote is a firm NO on Proposition 1.