During this year’s election those for and against ballot measure 2A made their voices heard. It seemed the proponents of the police tax measure were more organized, pooled resources and campaigned. Those opposed voiced their individual opinions via letters to the editor, some campaign materials and social media comments.
A measure that early on seemed to have little hope passed by the slimmest of margins.
I asked longtime local politician Bill Patterson for his prediction the day of the election. He said it would pass. His prediction process is pretty simple: counting yard signs.
“I don’t count the ones in vacant lots. If the sign is on an occupied property that’s usually a voter,” he said. I found it an interesting polling strategy.
What I also find interesting is that even after the numerous presentations by Police Chief Blaine Hall and despite the public declaration by City Manager Bill Bell in a Oct. 2 op-ed in the Daily Press that he was willing to talk with anybody concerning city financials, the vocal opposition is still claiming they don’t have the answers they are seeking.
I reached out to Bell via email for answers to my questions about the 2A funds. Some of these questions were based on comments I read on social media.
Here’s how Bell responded.
Is the 2A tax money tied to a statute that does not allow the city to put the money into the general fund?
We are home rule and our charter controls our operations, not statute for most things. 2A ballot language is what controls how 2A monies will be handled ... it says that all revenues collected from the 0.58% tax must be applied toward public safety and the city must also continue to fund public safety from the general fund every year at no less than 43% of our general operation expense amount.
So 2A money cannot be put into the general fund?
Correct ... the city must put all of the PSST monies toward public safety in perpetuity and none of it could ever be put into the general fund or used for non-public safety expenses, per the voter approved ballot language. We must also maintain an annual general fund contribution to public safety that is at least 43% of general operating expenses... in 2020, we are budgeting 44% or $8 million, to go along with the 0.58% PSST, or just over $3 million... for a total public safety fund budget of just over $11 million.
Someone said on Facebook that the city could say replacing street lights is public safety and use the funds for that. Is that accurate?
The voters approved the tax to go toward “public safety.” It is up to the city council and staff, over time, to decide what constitutes “public safety,” because the list of possible expense items is limitless, and we can’t predict the future. What if women are getting assaulted in our dark alleys and parking lots and potentially dangerous vagrants were living in the dark alleys throughout downtown ... wouldn’t adding more security lighting seem like a public safety item? Just an example to show that there are always different ways to look at every issue.
I know that there are questions regarding money spent in the past and why more wasn’t spent on police officers over the years, but Bell answered those questions in his op-ed.
As far as keeping an eye on future expenditures, I agree that we should. That’s what we do when we are engaged citizens.
If you missed the budget open house that city officials held on Nov. 14, the 2020 proposed budget is on display at the City of Montrose office or on its website.
Here is Bill Bell’s email address - email@example.com.
I’d recommend a direct conversation as opposed to an obscure Facebook comment.
Dennis Anderson is group publisher for Wick Communications, Alaska and Colorado. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org