Your ballot should have come in the mail this week for the Nov. 5 election.
While there are several important issues to consider when filling out your ballot, none hit closer to home than ballot measure 2A, a venomously debated sales tax increase that would help fund more police officers and a new police facility.
Several people have solicited the Montrose Daily Press over the past several weeks to weigh in on the tax. Most want the paper’s support of a yes vote.
The paper as a whole won’t likely come out for or against the measure, but after carefully weighing the implications of voting either yes or no, it’s clear there’s really only one reasonable option: to support the City of Montrose and the police force.
There has been plenty of information loosely tossed about the internet since city council approved putting 2A on the ballot. Some of it’s true, but most of it is opinion; and some is just misleading.
The notion that cities should operate within their means is correct. It’s important for municipalities to be fiscally responsible with taxpayer money.
It might even be fair to say the City of Montrose should have seen this surge in crime coming and properly prepared for it. City council members do deserve credit for gradually increasing the policing budget over the past few years.
But here we are. We’re in a predicament. Since 2010, Montrose has seen a 51-percent increase in felony crimes, many drug-related.
On average, the Montrose Police Department staffs four officers and a supervisor on the street at a given time, according to Chief Blaine Hall. That’s not a lot. Let’s say three crimes occur within the same time frame. Which crime, or crimes, are going to be ignored?
On top of that, the department only staffs three detectives. Three detectives can’t handle the current caseload, Hall said in a recent editorial in the Daily Press. That means patrol works felony cases, which takes time away from their patrolling.
Montrose finds itself in a difficult situation, with not many solutions. So far, there haven’t been any alternatives to better staffing the police department.
Of course, the city could incrementally increase its budget over time to add officers. But doing that doesn’t add the officers needed now. And that solution doesn’t promise that the incremental increase in officers would keep up with Montrose’s increase in population — or crime.
Working within the budget simply won’t work for what Montrose needs right now. That means increasing the budget while not chopping away at other city operations. That means a tax increase.
About this sales tax increase: it’s not much. It’s 58 cents on every $100 spent. I don’t have to cleverly quip about how little of a tax that is. But I could say something like, “That’s the cost of a pack of gum.” But even then, I don’t know if you can get a pack of gum for that anymore.
Folks have also argued, “The sales tax rate is already too high.”
Montrose’s current sales tax rate is 7.95 percent. That’s comparable, but not “much higher” than, other municipalities of the same size or in this area, like I’ve heard.
Delta, for instance, has a tax rate of 7.9 percent. Paonia, a much smaller town, has a tax rate of 7.9 percent. Olathe’s is 8.65 percent. Grand Junction’s sales tax rate is 8.02 percent.
The notion that Montrose’s sales tax rate is already too high is, of course, subjective, but it’s not based in fact.
Then there are those that are fundamentally against tax increases. It’s tough to argue principle. It’s not tough to argue need.
Montrose has a need, and if public safety is a priority to you, a yes vote is the way to go.