Joplin voters turned out Tuesday in small but decisive numbers to pass Proposition B by a 3-to-1 margin.
The measure that will raise the city sales tax a half-cent to fix pension issues for public safety workers was approved by a vote of 3,352 in favor to 974 against.
Mayor Gary Shaw it was a "big win" for the city and its police and fire departments. A committee of city officials, police and fire representatives, and a consultant who had worked on a similar plan for the city of Springfield had met since the first of the year to come up with options to resolve retention and recruitment issues within the public safety departments. They decided the answer was to fix the city's ailing pension fund for longtime workers and move recent or new workers to a state pension fund.
"I am really very pleased. It was something that needed to be fixed, and it is important to our future," the mayor said. "Joplin has always been known as a city that, when you bring people the information and show them the need, they come together."
"It's a great win for the community, the fire department, the police department and ultimately all of the city," said firefighter Adam Grimes, a member of the pension board. "It's going to save the taxpayers quite a bit of money and allow us to fix the recruiting issues with the fire and police departments."
The proposal carried in both Jasper and Newton counties.
In Jasper County, where clerk Charlie Davis said Monday he hoped for voter turnout of 15%, the percentage was not far from that at 12.63%, according to the clerk's figures.
The question won a 77% approval margin in Jasper County with 2,762 "yes" votes and 814 "no" votes, according to complete but unofficial returns.
In Newton County, there were 590 "yes" votes and 160 "no" votes, giving the question a 79% approval margin.
Both police and fire unions, aided by residents, worked as volunteers on a residents' committee to educate voters and help promote the issue and canvassed voters for weeks ahead of the election.
"The success of this is largely due to the community coming together to solve our problems," Grimes said. We're grateful for not only that but humbled by the vote that came out," Grimes said.
"There are too many people to name but we are grateful for all the hard work that was put in by all those in community and we want to give a special 'thank you' to the voters," Grimes said.
The sales tax increase will go into effect April 1, the mayor said.
It will expire in 12 years or sooner if the funded level of the pension plan reaches 120% before then. It is expected to generate about $6 million a year toward resolving the underfunding of the plan. The city will later be able to use the $3 million it is paying into the pension from the general fund for other city services.
"I think Joplin's greatest days are ahead of us and we need to get things in line for the growth that's coming," the mayor said.