Montrose, CO – The creation of an advisory board tasked with exploring the implementation of a possible public safety tax in Montrose is under consideration by the City Council. The vision of the voluntary board and the composition of its community membership is still under discussion as councilors seek input to address law enforcement needs in the city.
During Monday’s work session councilors were updated by city staff about creating the Montrose Public Safety Committee, MPSC, a board “responsible for investigating, evaluating, forming and drafting written recommendations for presentation to City Council on issues involving public safety funding initiatives within the City of Montrose,” according to a draft mission statement.
Earlier this year a group of concerned citizens brought to the council their findings that police services in the city were greatly understaffed and underfunded. A proposed Public Safety Sales Tax, PSST, was discussed at that work session as a possible way to increase the number of sworn officers in Montrose and upgrade the Police Department headquarters at 434 South First Street. In 2018 the sworn officer count at the Montrose Police Department stands at 42, compared to 55 sworn officers in the City of Durango, a community with a smaller population than Montrose.
In early July, the council’s consensus was to delay placing a tax initiative on the ballot until next year while working on the 2019 budget to find funds to further support essential police operations and combat crime within the city. Councilors also agreed that more citizen involvement is needed before any possible tax increase vote could take place. Any tax increase would need to go before voters for approval.
The MPSC board would be appointed by the City Council to study the department's crime and staffing data and deliver recommendations back to the council. The board would examine the current funding constraints facing the Montrose Police Department and assess whether there is sufficient demand to warrant a tax increase. If the board determined that the police department’s operations are in need of additional tax revenue, they would recommend what type and rate of increase is appropriate.
“This board is serving in an advisory role to the council,” said Assistant City Attorney Andrew Boyko. “The council has the option to terminate the board.”
The initial proposal to form the committee calls for seven members representing local law enforcement, public education, local businesses, the Hispanic community and the general public.
“I think it should be more than seven,” Councilor Barbara Bynum said, adding that having more board members, like 12-to-18, would better represent the community.
“If we get some really good applications, our hands are tied by the number of spaces on the board.”
Each board member would go a though an application process, including a background check, prior to going before the council. Each board member would then be interviewed by the council at a future work session.
Once in place, the board would study the issue of police staffing and whether the police department’s current facilities provide adequate space for both current and future needs.
The board would be tasked with providing written recommendations to the council and delivering their findings in person at work sessions and regular City Council meetings.
Any recommendations would be approved by majority vote of the board before being presented to the council.
“The goal here is for the committee to have a uniform recommendation to the city,” Boyko said.
The initial mission statement reads: “members may not communicate with the City Council, or individual members of the Council, with the exception of committee-approved written recommendations and statements made on the record at regular City Council meetings or work sessions.”
Boyko told councilors Monday the board would be subject to open meetings laws and would be required to publicly notice their meetings and hold them in a public setting.
Officers of the board would consist of a chair, vice chair, and secretary. The City Council would appoint staff liaisons to the board, possibly from the Montrose Police Department and City Attorney’s Office.
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