Montrose, CO – During Monday's City Council Work Session, councilors reviewed language for a proposed public safety sales tax increase to fund more police department resources. Council members expressed support in helping to raise police department revenues but said the proposed ballot language needed clarity before any possible vote that could send the ballot question before voters this fall.
In its draft form, proposed ballot initiative 1A, reads: "the Public Safety Sales Tax shall be seventy five hundredths of one cent (0.75%) per dollar of taxable transactions (75 cents on a $100 purchase), with two hundredths of one cent (0.2%) per dollar of taxable transactions to expire upon full payment of a Public Safety Building or no less than 20 years, and thereafter shall be fifty-five hundredths of one cent (0.55%) per dollar of taxable transactions (55 cents on a $100 purchase)."
The focus of the money is to hire more police officers and build a new police headquarters in downtown.
The need for officers is dire, according to Jim Haugsness and John W. Nelson, two private citizens who work on behalf of local law enforcement agencies to strengthen public safety in Montrose.
Nelson, a former police officer, and a judge told the council the crime stats he researches suggest Montrose police officers are "overworked and underfunded." Nelson is also the President of the Montrose Regional Crime Stoppers Inc., and Director of Crime Stoppers USA.
"If you look at that (police) blotter, if you look at those stats, something has to be done, and done in hurry,” Nelson told councilors Monday. "It’s going to take a significant chunk of money to do it. And that’s more officers."
Nelson told the council Monday that "all hell broke loose," during a recent shooting on Nevada Ave., which required assistance from the Montrose County Sheriff's Office and Colorado State Patrol. Nelson said calling in off-duty police officers to that situation was a prime example the city police department is understaffed.
Haugsness told councilors that if the council approved the resolution, Nelson and himself would work to educate the public on the benefits of funding more law enforcement resources through media outreach and public meetings.
"I view our role is to be out there, spearheading these public meetings,” Haugsness said.
Haugsness said the city should create a revised vision of the future of the Montrose Police Department, which includes renderings of a new department headquarters and breakdowns in operational costs for the public to inspect.
The next step is for city staff to finalize resolution language for councilors to consider and vote to either approve for deny during a public meeting, which could take place in early July.
City Manager Bill Bell said the resolution presented to councilors Monday is a rough draft and the language is "not definitive enough" for a final vote. He said city staff would conduct more research before final language is presented to the council.
Councilor Dave Bowman said conversations he's had with citizens suggest there is public support for the initiative.
"They recognize the need and support it," Bowman said.
Councilor Barbara Bynum said she wanted language in the resolution that clearly stated any money raised in a tax increase is used directly for police operations and not funneled to other city departments.
Assistant City Attorney Andrew Boyko said the city attorney’s office is working to make sure any tax language conforms to TABOR rules, which is set forth in Colorado state law.
If the resolution is approved by the council, the city would need to notify the Colorado Secretary of State’s office by the end of July that the initiative was going to be on the November ballot.
For more city news visit: CityOfMontrose.org.