Following the Money: Cape Girardeau Sales Tax

Following the Money: Cape Girardeau Sales Tax
By: CJ Cassidy

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. - We all want to make sure we get the most bang for our buck, especially when it comes to our tax dollars.
Tuesday we told you about a public safety foundation set up by the Cape Girardeau Police and Fire Departments to manage donations coming in from local businesses.
So why would these city departments need to collect donations?
Cape's budget for both departments tops $10 million.
If you spend $10 at the store, 2.5 cents of your tax would go towards the fire tax in Cape Girardeau.
The mayor says the money that's been coming in since 2004 brought the fire and police departments up to standard and helped make them competitive among other area departments, but it's not paying for everything.
"This is a very giving community.  We're at a point where we knew the tax was not going to be the cure all for all our needs," Mayor Knudtson said.
Knudtson says those needs range from building expansions to new equipment for police to training for firefighters.
That's why he supports extra money collected by police and firefighters.
Police Chief Carl Kinnison says he referred to a series of shootings last year.
"In one incident there were 39 rounds fired into an apartment building.  The fire power we had is with a handgun; shotguns are becoming antiquated and most departments issued officers rifles. We don't do that," Kinnison said.
Ideally the chief would like to equip officers with patrol rifles, but the cost ranges anywhere from $700 to $1,000 a piece.
The tax helped police get eight new patrol cars, but there's not enough money to upgrade radios in those cars.
"We were so far behind the curve, that over the half of our fleet had over 150,000 miles or more," he said.
Thirty miles to the south, Sikeston also uses sales tax money to fund its public safety departments.
City Manager Doug Friend says when the tax doesn't generate the money they need, they make adjustments like training fire crews in house and working with area agencies.
"We've been able to supplement putting police and personnel out on the street through contracts with the school district and housing authority," Friend said.
Back in Cape, Mayor Knudtson says different cities handle their needs in different ways.
Right now, he hopes donations will help get his emergency crews the training and gear they need, and more importantly, some peace of mind.

The police and fire departments generally get unsolicited donations from folks every year.  They say the public safety foundation will help steer that money into areas of need.