COPY-Mayor Wants To Ask Voters To Approve Public Safety Sales Tax

Dec. 20, 2007

COLUMBUS, Ga (WTVM) - Many call Columbus a small town with big city problems.  Over the past year, an increase in murders, shootings and robberies have stretched the police department and its resources to the limit.

Now, Mayor Jim Wetherington wants to do something about it.

"With the growth Columbus is expecting, we desperately need more officers on the streets, in the neighborhoods, and in the parks," said Wetherington.

The Mayor says the new tax will allow the police department to hire more officers to patrol areas like Downtown Columbus and the Riverwalk, as well as build more precincts and expand the city jail.

Chief Ricky Boren says more money coming to his department would be a welcome change.]

"Over the time I've been Chief and Assistant Chief, anytime we've had a budget directive, it's been 'Cut, cut, cut,' and we've done that on a regular basis, but there's nothing left to cut," said Boren.

The police department only has the budget for 388 officers, and that number has not changed since 1994.

Chief Boren says the manpower he has is way too low to deal with the current population growth Columbus is experiencing.

Ultimately, though, whether the new sales tax passes will come down to the voters...some say its about time.

"As an ex-correctional officer, I know they are under paid and I think it's a great idea," said Columbus Resident Constance Albritten.

But others say their distrust in local government will keep them from voting yes, even if it is for a good cause.

"I think it's the way things are managed, we don't like to vote something in and have it used for something frivolous," said Columbus Resident Beth Rothfuss.

If the tax is approved by the city council next year, the issue could go to the voters as early as July.