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Waite Park Wants To Raise Sales Tax To Pay For More Police Officers [AUDIO, POLL]

(PHOTO: Alex Svejkovsky, WJON News)

WAITE PARK – Crime in Waite Park is on the rise, putting a strain on the police department and the city’s budget.  To help with the issue, city leaders have convinced State Senator John Pederson of St. Cloud to introduce a bill that would raise the sales tax in Waite Park by a quarter cent.

Pederson says Waite Park is already at the maximum property tax level allowable by state law.

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Also, Pederson says Waite Park doesn’t qualify for any Local Government Aid, which is how many cities get state aid to help pay for public services.

City Administrator Shaunna Johnson says the additional revenue collected from the quarter-cent sales tax would be used to hire more police officers.

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Johnson says 82 percent of the crimes in Waite Park are committed by people who don’t live there.

During last week’s Senate Committee hearing, the suggestion of combining St. Cloud area police departments was brought up.  Johnson says they’ve explored the idea, but that wouldn’t solve the financial problem.

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Right now Waite Park, St. Cloud, Sartell, Sauk Rapids and St. Joseph all have their own police departments.  St. Augusta has a contract with the Stearns County Sheriff’s Department.

Pederson is hoping to get the bill included in an omnibus tax bill yet this year.  If the state legislature approves the sales tax increase, it would then go to the voters this November.

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