Montrose, CO — Citing critical shortages in police personnel and resources the Montrose City Council Tuesday approved a resolution signaling its intent to take the next step in pursuing a public safety sales tax this fall. If approved, the tax would increase the number of officers and accompanying resources for the Montrose Police Department with the goal of improving overall police services within the city.
Councilors voted unanimously for Resolution 2019-19, which serves as an official notice to the Montrose County Clerk's office of their intention "to authorize a ballot question for the election to be held on the first Tuesday of November, 2019, for the purpose of imposing a citywide public safety improvements sales tax to address critical and immediate needs of the City of Montrose Police Department."
The city's official Charter provides the City Council with the authority to approve, by resolution, a ballot question for all registered city voters.
Tuesday's resolution does not describe any percentage of increase in the city's sales tax to fund public safety. The specific ballot language, including proposed tax rate increase, will have to be approved by council in the coming weeks. Colorado Law states the deadline to publish ballot language for the November election is in late September.
In spring 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, 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 including 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 Public Safety Citizens Advisory Committee recommended that the City Council pursue additional funding beyond what is currently allocated through the general fund by the use of a ballot measure calling for a sales tax increase that would fund ongoing personnel and equipment costs," Resolution 2019-19 reads.
The resolution states the tax will fund an "additional 20-full time employees and provide for new and renovated facilities."
The City of Montrose derives more than 80 percent of its general fund revenues from city sales and use tax. The city does not collect any property taxes. The sales tax collected by the City of Montrose to fund essential operations such as law enforcement, streets, and parks has not changed since 1986 when city residents voted to increase the rate from 2 percent to 3 percent.
Since 1986 and prior to the Montrose Recreation District (MRD) increase in 2014, there have been three city ballot measures to temporarily increase the local sales tax rate for outside organizations such as Montrose County School District's 1 percent increase in 1991 and .5 percent increase in 2002. The Montrose Library District had a 1 percent increase in 1994, and the last of these temporary increases expired in 2008. In 2007 voters approved two sales tax increases for Montrose County (1 percent for roads and .75 percent for public safety).
The Finance Department collects all city sales, use, and excise taxes. Montrose is a home-rule city and therefore collects its own sales tax under the policies and business regulations found in Title V of the city’s Municipal Code.
As of June 1, 2014, the City of Montrose requires all sales tax licensees to collect the .3% sales tax in behalf of the Montrose Recreation District (MRD), as directed under Referred Measure "B," which helped fund the new Community Recreation Center.
Voters approved the measure in 2014 during the General Municipal Election, which authorized the MRD to raise $1,252,500 during 2015, the first full fiscal year of the rate. The .3 percent MRD sales tax increase will remain in effect until June 1, 2039, and is designated for "Recreation District facilities."
The sales and use tax rates for retail sales in the city as of June 1, 2014, are:
3.30% - City and MRD
1.75% - Montrose County
2.9% - State
7.95% - Total
Tuesday's resolution stated "the City Council of the City of Montrose, Colorado announces their intention to authorize a ballot question for the election to be held on the first Tuesday of November 2019, for the purpose of imposing a citywide public safety improvements sales tax to address critical and immediate needs of the City of Montrose Police Department, and further directs the City Manager, City Attorney, and Police Chief to take the necessary actions to bring this ballot measure to the citizens of Montrose."
For more city news visit CityOfMontrose.org.