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Supporters, opponents sound off on proposed sales tax increase for county police

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ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MO (KTVI) - St. Louis County officials and law enforcement announced their campaign in support of Proposition P, Wednesday, a ballot initiative county voters will see in April that would implement a half cent sales tax increase that would benefit county police.

"This is a great day for St. Louis County" announced County Executive Steve Stenger.  "We, together, will make St. Louis County neighborhoods more safe and our police officers more secure" he said.

The tax increase is estimated to generate $80 million every year, with just over half going to St. Louis County and the remainder divided among municipalities based on population.  Money from the tax would help hire more officers, increase police salaries and expand police training.

"It's absolutely critical or I wouldn't have done this at all" said County Police Chief Jon Belmar.  "We have to be able to provide these chiefs and certainly county police with the kinds of funding we have to ensure that St. Louis County stays that safe and viable place to live" Belmar said.

Not everyone is on board.

"There's been other priorities other than the police and now all of a sudden they're claiming that there's this need" said government watchdog Tom Sullivan.  "There's always been a need, but it's been pretty much ignored" he said.

Sullivan says improving community safety and equipping police officers is important, but he fells it shouldn't come at the expense of an increased sales tax.

"You're basically giving a blind check to politicians for tens of millions of dollars and eventually hundreds of millions of dollars" said Sullivan. "The selling point for all of this is better police protection but there's no guarantee of that" he said.

Stenger says the tax is a dedicated tax and monies from it will go to public safety.

"This will be a dedicated tax" Stenger said.  "Diversion of that money is a very serious thing.  We are all held responsible by the voters to employ this tax appropriately" said Stenger.

Proposition P will appear on the ballot in St. Louis County on April 4.