Springfield voters have renewed the ¾-cent police-fire pension sales tax, which will bring the pension plan to full funding over the next several years.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting, unofficial results from the Greene County Clerk's office show that 76 percent of citizens on Tuesday voted not to repeal the measure, meaning the tax will continue at its current rate for a period not to exceed five years, or until the pension plan is fully funded.
“First and foremost, I’d like to thank our citizens who voted for this renewal. I’m hopeful this show of support reflects the City’s credibility . . . we said what we’d do and we’ve done what we said,” said City Manager Greg Burris in a news release. “The competitive advantage this will bring Springfield may not be realized for a few years, but it will be significant when we will be compared to cities who are not facing up to this debt.”
The tax was first approved by voters in 2009, when the pension plan was estimated to be underfunded by $200 million. After its renewal Tuesday, the plan is projected to generate $145 million over five years, bringing it to full funding.
Fire Chief David Hall says without Tuesday’s renewal, the city would have had to increase its annual contribution to the plan by $9 million, out of a $73 million General Fund budget, resulting in a reduction in public safety and many other public services.
“With its passage, we will be able to continue the level of service that the citizens expect from their city,” Hall said. “We are currently in the process of testing for future firefighters to begin the recruit academy later this year. With the continuance of this tax, we will be able to continue with filling those positions.”
Police Chief Paul Williams noted that officials had to put some department services “on hold” as they awaited the outcome of Tuesday’s vote.
“Thank you to the citizens of Springfield for acknowledging the efforts of their city leaders to keep the commitment made in 2009 and for once again expressing their confidence in us to diligently work to resolve this issue, while ensuring that the funds entrusted to us are used in the most efficient and effective manner possible,” Williams continued.
The election was preceded by months of educational campaigns by local officials, who worked to clarify the language on the ballot, which needed citizens to vote “no” to not repeal/continue the tax.
9.4 percent of Greene County voters turned out for Tuesday’s election, down from the 12 percent turnout in April 2013.