One local group is looking to get people to vote on a quarter percent sales tax on the November ballot.

The group is made up of police, firefighters and local business leaders who say as the population increases, so have crime rates.

They believe the best way to change that is through a quarter percent sales tax increase, that would raise $20 million. 

It’s only May and the city is on pace for a possible record breaking year for homicides in Wichita. 

“Last year, the number was 38 people died in the city at the hands of someone else,” said Jason Van Sickle, of the Wichita Downtown Neighborhood Alliance. “That doesn’t take into consideration attempted homicides. But, this year we’re on pace for one a week.”

And, with that pace, police and fire union officials say they need more manpower and resources.

“We’re about to boil over as far as it goes with personnel goes,” said Robert Schmeidler, president of the Wichita Fraternal Order of Police. “We’ve reached max capacity being able to respond to calls with the amount of people we have to do so.”

“We’ve lost units taken out of service during the recession, lost firefighter positions,” said Matt Schulte, president of IAFF Local 135. “We’ve had a grant for the last five years to fund six of them out east at station 6. That’s going to go away at the end of this year.”

One of the issues is that while they say positions have decreased, Wichita’s population has increased.
To keep up, officials believe $20 million is needed.

“We’re not excited about proposing a tax to solve this,” said Van Sickle. “But, that’s the only revenue source available to the city.”

With more positions, it’s hoped that not only will the public see quicker response times to emergencies, but also see law enforcement more involved in the community.

“When you have officers available to just be out going through the neighborhoods and looking for crime, and things along those lines, it helps when you have more bodies on the street,” said Schmeidler.

The coalition is working on putting together a detailed proposal over the next 30 days so that they can present it to city council. 

Their goal is to have residents vote on this in November.