Oak Creek voters reject sales tax increase to fund Police Department | SteamboatToday.com

Oak Creek voters reject sales tax increase to fund Police Department

Nicole Inglis

— If the Oak Creek Police Department is to hire another officer, it will have to do it without funding from a proposed 1 percent sales tax increase.

Sixty-five percent of Oak Creek voters rejected Referendum 2D on Tuesday, which would have raised an estimated $39,000 in 2012 and a similar amount in future years by increasing the town's sales tax rate from 3 percent to 4 percent.

Town officials have said the new revenue would have been used to hire another police officer. The town currently employs full-time officer Lance Dunaway and seasonal officer Eileen Rossi.

Dunaway said Tuesday night that he was disappointed but not surprised at the outcome.

"I just think it's a difficult time to be asking people to increase taxes," he said. "I can totally understand why the vote is where it is."

Town Trustee Chuck Wisecup also wasn't surprised.

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"All this boils down to what the economy is doing now," he said.

He said the town now faces the challenge of how to meet its law enforcement needs.

"It's not going to make it any easier," Wisecup said.

The town already has budgeted $45,000 in 2012 to hire another full-time police officer, but the board has held off on revising the budget until after the results of Tuesday's election were known.

Mayor Nikki Knoebel said it's now up in the air as to whether the town can afford the second officer.

"It's important to us," she said. "(Referndum 2D's failure) doesn't mean we can't hire at this point … but it might not even be right away. We might go status quo for a while and maybe it's somehitng we do down the road."

Dunaway is paid $58,000 a year plus benefits, and Rossi earns $35 an hour with a cap of $18,000 a year. The total police budget for 2011 is $150,000, which included a capital expense of $42,000 for a new police car.

Residents of Oak Creek pay 6.9 percent in sales tax. The 3 percent town sales tax rate is in addition to the 1 percent county sales tax and the 2.9 percent state sales tax.

Dunaway thinks the department needs another full-time officer to adequately serve the community of about 800 residents.

"I think it would be good for the town," he said. "It would provide them better service, but now I am not sure this is going to be budgeted. You're always hopeful, but at this point we might need to look at other options."

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