Public Safety Sales Tax
Initiation of Tax
In August 2014, voters in Benton County approved a county-wide increase of 0.3% to the sales and use tax rate for public safety. The new tax rate was implemented in January of 2015 and is dedicated towards current and future criminal justice needs within Benton County including the hiring of additional police officers, corrections officers, and prosecutors, funding for the Metro Drug Task Force, and gang and crime prevention efforts. The tax will also fund court and clerk programs including a seventh Superior Court Judge and drug and mental health courts.
Because there is a two-month lag from the time retail sales tax is collected on a taxable transaction by a business to the time it is received by the state and local governments, Benton County and cities within the County received their first distribution of the new criminal justice sales tax in March of 2015.
Under State statute, Benton County will receive 60% of the proceeds generated from the public safety sales tax. Cities within Benton County will then share the remaining 40%, which will be allocated based on population.
The Public Safety Sales Tax (PST) revenue collection began in the second quarter of 2015. The projected 3/10% sales tax revenue for 2015 was $309,600.00. Actual 2015 PST revenue was $332,049.26. PST expenditure was approved to achieve a minimum patrol coverage of two officers each shift 24/7/365. To achieve this goal the City planned for the addition of three full-time Certified General Authority Police Officers. The implementation strategy included the hiring, training, and equipping of two officers in 2015 and one officer in 2016. In addition to the initial PST expenditure, the City Council approved a reclassification of one existing non-PST Police Officer to Sergeant in 2015 and at a later date approved the reclassification of one PST Police Officer position to Sergeant effective 2016. This modified the existing organizational structure to provide supervisory coverage for each of the four patrol squads. In total, three PST General Authority Police Officers were hired, one of which is in the rank of Sergeant.
PST funding was also approved for training and equipping the three PST-funded positions. The purchases included all uniforms, necessary equipment and vehicles. The ongoing maintenance and replacement of equipment will continue under PST funding for these designated positions. The PST positions are tracked separately under the police budget and are easily identified by the last three-digit designator of .145.
Future use of the PST revenue will continue to support PST positions. PST funding is not intended to supplant existing positions. PST will be used to pay the pro-rata share of costs associated with the positions such as operating costs of equipment, dispatch services, communications, administrative services, and professional service expenses.
Community safety and responsible government are high priorities for the City of West Richland. With that in mind, the City wants to be as transparent as possible in reporting back to the community how this important public safety funding source is being used. The following reports provide an accounting of the revenue the City has received to date and the program expenditures that revenue has been utilized for.