Hickory County seeks to impose 911 sales tax, confuses residents

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) – Voters in Hickory County will decide on a 3/4 cent sales tax on Tuesday.

Hickory County 911 Board Chairman Brian Bennett said the sales tax funds will only be used to build a new 911 center.

The ballot says the sales tax funds will go to several different departments, but Bennett says the funds are only for a new 911 center.(KY3)

The 911 center is located in the Hickory County Sheriff’s Office. Bennett said the center is just a small room in which only one dispatcher at a time has space to answer calls. He said that’s only part of the reason the county needs the sales tax passed.

“The board has talked about having two full-time dispatchers to fill the gap because currently we only have one,” Bennett said. “On a busy day, the girls have to answer six phone lines, deal with the sheriff’s department, fire and medical services…to have one person trying to handle this is overwhelming. “

Bennett said a new 911 center would give dispatchers the space they need to work. They will also purchase updated 911 equipment for a more efficient response time. Training dispatchers is expensive, and Bennett said sales tax will help pay for that necessary training. There will also be a text to 911 feature that will allow people to text 911 if they don’t have enough service to call.

Bennett said they also want to be able to pay their employees more than 35 cents above minimum wage. If passed, the new 911 center will be a stand-alone building outside of the Hickory County Sheriff’s Office.

Residents won’t be the only ones paying, but visitors traveling through the county will play a fundamental role in paying this sales tax.

“Our out-of-state visitors – 1.3 million visitors last year, and they’re going to help pay for our county to have what Kansas City, St. Louis and Springfield have,” said Bennett.

However, there is confusion in the county over what sales tax includes and how much it will cost.

“They haven’t been able to tell me if the response times will be better, they say it will save lives but can’t tell me statistically how many lives it will save,” said resident and owner Chris Jenkins. county company.

Jenkins is passionate enough about the 911 sales tax not going through that he paid for an ad in the local paper denouncing it. Jenkins also said he felt county residents weren’t made aware of many aspects of this sales tax and that he didn’t want to pay for something he didn’t know much about. There are also a handful of signs in the county that also oppose sales tax.

“It’s 3/4 of a cent,” Jenkins said. “Some people will go to another county or even another state to get the cheapest sales tax rate.”

According to the Hickory and Bennett County Clerk, if passed, the tax rate in the county will increase from 6.225 to 6.975. The five towns in Hickory County would see their tax rates increase by 3/4 of a cent.

Bennett said he had been in contact with the Missouri Department of Revenue, and they explained the tax would raise about $640,000 a year, with only $80,000 coming from full-time Hickory County residents. With a current population of 8,279 according to the 2020 census, that would be about $9.66 per person per year. The rest of the funds, $560,000, would come from visitors.

This is the second time this sales tax will be on the August ballot. Voters said no in April.

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