O'Fallon proposing tax increase to expand city Justice Center - KMOV.com

O'Fallon proposing tax increase to expand city Justice Center

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By Daniel Greenwald By Daniel Greenwald

O'FALLON, Mo. (KMOV.com)- City officials say the O'Fallon Police Department has run out of room and is bursting at the seams. 

Voters turned down a bond issue for a new Justice Center, a combination police department and courthouse. Becuase of the problems, however, the city plans to ask voters again to pass a bond issue. 

"There's no way we can stay in this space," says Jennifer Thomas. 

Thomas is one of half a dozen O'Fallon residents who are part of a greassroots effort to build a new Justice Center. 

Supporters have said that the current facility isn't enough to handle a city that's more than quadrupled in population since the 1990's. 

Proposition One is a $28.6 millions bond issue to be funded through a property tax hike. The hike would increase the taxes of a $200,000 home by $17.40 a year. 

"I blow more on coffee," says Thomas. "That's not even a trip out to McDonald's for my family, so if that's going to make my family safer that's okay."

In 200 the population of O'Fallon was little more than 51,000 and the department had 66 officers. Today, the population is more than 83,000 and the department has 118 officers. But a tax hike is always a tough sell and last April, while the proposal needed 57% majority to pass, it received slightly under 50%. 

To pass this April it will need a significant increase in the support. 

"A lot of residents thought property tax increase last time was too high," said City Spokesperson Tom Drabelle. "So we worked with the finance department to bring down property tax increases as low as we could."

The city is also using existing money to buy the land that will be needed, something that was included in the previous bond issue proposal. 

Volunteers like Thomas will be campaigning for the new Justice Center, talking with neighborhood associations and civic organizations to get their message out. 

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