Joplin voters on Tuesday will decide whether to increase the city's general sales tax a half-cent that would be designated to fully fund the existing Joplin Police and Firemen's Pension Fund.
If passed, it is estimated the tax would generate about $6 million a year. City officials have committed all proceeds to close out the pension fund to recent and newly hired public safety workers and transfer them to the Missouri Local Government Employees Retirement System. The money collected from the tax would assure those currently covered by it that their benefits would be paid for as long they are owed, and ultimately save taxpayers dollars, according to city officials.
The city currently is providing about $3 million a year to the pension fund to try to catch up on the amount of benefits owed by the fund. The fund currently has enough money to pay about 64% of the benefits that will be owed over time. Moving to LAGERS would cost about $1.7 million, city officials have said.
The sales tax, which is listed on the ballot as Proposition B, would expire in 12 years or whenever the funding level of the pension plan reaches 120%.
Police and fire representatives have said that the pension change would make it easier to retain and attract police officers and firefighters.
With only the one issue on the ballot Tuesday in Joplin, Jasper County Clerk Charlie Davis said he did not see much of a voter turnout.
Though he knows it is unlikely that half of the Joplin registered voters will cast a ballot, his office printed that many so it would be prepared in case of a heavy turnout.
If pre-election voting is an indicator, there had been 317 absentee ballots cast as of Monday, which Davis said was a low number.
"I am probably going to estimate on the high side that about 14 to 15 percent will vote (today)," Davis said. "I sure wish everybody would get out to vote."
Because the question is the sole issue on the ballot in Jasper County, the city will have to pay the costs for the entire in the city election. Davis estimates the cost could be about $36,000. The bulk of the cost is printing the ballots. There also are labor costs for the poll workers, for those who move the equipment into the polling places to prepare for the election, and overtime wages for county workers who work Saturdays during November for absentee votes to be cast.
After the election, the clerk will tally the exact cost.
A county map of the polling places has been created by the clerk's office so that people can find where they are to vote; they may go to www.jaspercounty.org and click on the "Elections" box. Davis said voters may check their voter cards for their precinct numbers and that there are pop-up boxes on the map that will give the information on each precinct and the address of the polling place.
There will be seven Joplin polling places in the Newton County portion of the city.
NEWTON COUNTY ISSUES
There are several ballot questions for voters in other Newton County towns.
Neosho voters will decide whether city administrators should live within city limits. The vote is meant to clarify a discrepancy in the city charter, which says the administrator should live in the city limits but gives the City Council an option to waive the requirement. A 2008 city ordinance takes away the council's authority to allow an exception. A majority of the council voted earlier to send the question to voters.
Neosho and Stark City voters will decide whether to pass a use tax on purchases made outside of city limits in an effort to reclaim lost sales taxes.
• In Neosho, voters will be asked to pass a rate that mirrors the city's sales tax rate, which is currently set at 2.5%. The use tax would be applied primarily to purchases made over the internet — items bought from a store in the city limits, where a sales tax would be paid, would not be assessed the use tax.
• Voters in the village of Stark City will decide whether to implement a combination sales tax and use tax of 0.5%.
• Granby voters will be asked to authorize about $3.24 million in revenue bonds to upgrade and extend the wastewater system.
Hours, required majorities
Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. today. A simple majority vote is required for passage in all of the issues on the ballots in the two counties.