Montrose, CO — By unanimous vote, Montrose City Councilors have approved ballot language for this fall's Public Safety Sales Tax, PSST, increase to fund the Montrose Police Department's ability to hire additional officers and to construct a new police headquarters in a proactive effort to curb the rise of felony and drug crime in the city.
The sales tax question is now headed for voter approval this November 5. If approved, the sales tax rate within the city limits will rise .58 percent from 7.95 to a total of 8.53 percent.
The ballot language was approved Tuesday evening through Ordinance 2496, which states that, if the tax increase is approved by voters this fall, the new rate would take effect January 1, 2020, and will sunset in 2050 to a lower rate of .44 percent.
The ordinance also states that "one hundred percent of the revenues," generated by the tax will be used "solely for support in the level of service for public safety in the City of Montrose" in the following areas:
• Hiring, employing, training, and equipping public safety personnel, including police school resource officers and support staff.
• Adding personnel and equipment to ensure the optimal number of police officers are on duty at all times to support current policing needs and to improve emergency response times based upon national best practices.
• Preparing, conducting, and improving criminal investigations, prosecution, and proactive policing to enhance public safety.
• Paying operational costs, supplies, equipment, and capital expenditures related to public safety.
• Funding costs associated with public safety buildings such as a new Police Department facilities.
In addition, the ordinance specifies that the city will continue to fund public safety from the city’s General Fund in an annual amount of not less than 43 percent of all general operational expenses. Based upon 2018 figures, the city currently uses 45 percent of general operating funds for public safety.
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 also approved the ballot language, which states all sales taxes collected for public safety will go directly to the Police Department, a provision that will prevent future City Councils from diverting any public safety funds to other purposes.
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 met regularly throughout the winter and spring pouring over police data, procedures, budgets, and crime statistics looking for ways 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 including a new Police Department headquarters. PSCAC members said their vision was 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.
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