Montrose, CO — To curb critical shortages in city police services members of the Montrose City Council reached a consensus Monday to ask all registered city voters this fall for a .58-percent increase in the city sales tax rate to fund additional personnel for the Montrose Police Department and the construction of a new police headquarters in downtown.
Councilors discussed ballot language for about 90 minutes during their Monday, August 19, Work Session. The council will formally vote on the ballot language at the September 3 council meeting. Colorado Law states the deadline to publish ballot language for the November election is in late September.
Council members agreed the .58 percentage would be lowered to .44 after a term of 30 years.
Councilors discussed how much money the increased tax rate would collect; annual debt payments to construct a new police headquarters complex in downtown, and how to plan for any possible recession in the economy.
Cost to construct a new police headquarters in downtown is estimated at 16 million dollars. Once the new police headquarters are paid off, the tax rate would lower to .44. The remaining tax will sustain desired staffing levels of both sworn police officers and civilian support staff in an effort to reduce rising felony and drug crimes in the city.
"This discussion makes the decision stronger," Bynum said Monday.
In July councilors approved Resolution 2019-19 stating their intent to pursue a Public Safety Sales Tax increase this year. The city's official Charter provides the City Council with the authority to approve, by resolution, a ballot question for all registered city voters.
Councilors will consider ballot language, which will state all sales taxes collected for public safety will go directly to the police department, a move which will prevent future city councils from diverting any public safety funds to other purposes.
Early in 2018, a group of concerned citizens representing Montrose Regional Crime Stoppers brought data to the council that they believed supported their conclusion that police services in the city are greatly understaffed and underfunded. Acting on these concerns, the council created the Blue Ribbon Public Safety Citizen Advisory Committee (PSCAC) to critically analyze the department and see where any additional funding could be found in the city's budget.
The PSCAC's first meeting was held on January 30, 2019, and the committee met regularly, almost weekly, throughout the winter and spring pouring through police data, procedures, budgets and crime statistics looking for a way to decrease crime and improve law enforcement service in the city.
In June 2019, following five months of work, the PSCAC presented their findings to the City Council along with a final report regarding staffing and funding recommendations for the future of the Montrose Police Department. The PSCAC's consensus was that the department should increase its number of sworn officers and provide adequate resources for those officers to implement intelligence-led policing as well as construct a new police department headquarters. PSCAC members said their vision is to make sure law enforcement resources adapt with population growth expected in the coming decades.
The PSCAC recommended the council pursue a public safety sales tax at the first legal opportunity and put the question in front of voters to decide. Their final report to the City Council can be viewed on the city's website at www.CityOfMontrose.org/report.
The September 3 council meeting will be held at 6 p.m. in the council chambers located at 107 South Cascade Avenue. The public is welcome to attend.
For more city news visit CityOfMontrose.org.