Posted 6:36 PM 8/28/2012 : Sheriff wants to ask voters for tax increase in November
El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa is trying to rush a tax increase question for the November ballot before the deadline. He's asking for a 16 million dollar a year tax increase; that could comes from property or sales tax, they're still working on the question wording. Sheriff Maketa wants the tax to expire after eight years. He says it's to address critical needs in his department's budget.
"Our staffing levels today are at about what they were in 1990," Sheriff Maketa told News 5. El Paso County has seen a lot of growth in those 22 years, and Maketa says the small staff causes issues.
In July 2011, El Paso County Sheriff's deputies shot and killed a man, 45-year-old Daniel Leskinen, after they say he fired at them in Black Forest. The District Attorney's office later said that the shooting was justified, but in the meantime Sheriff Maketa had to take four deputies off the streets from an already thinned staff; a situation he recalls straining the department.
Earlier this summer the Waldo Canyon Fire put the Sheriff's office's resources to the test.
Sheriff Maketa is again asking County Commissioners for budget help, like he says he's been asking for over the last ten years or so. He addressed the board in the special meeting Tuesday morning at Centennial Hall.
Right now county budget officers say the Sheriff's office has $22.5 million in emergency needs; mostly for staffing, both on patrol and at the Criminal Justice Center. Sheriff Maketa doesn't expect that money to be in the county's budget for 2013.
"I just know it's another year like it's been where a lot of these are going to go unmet," says Sheriff Maketa. Now he wants to ask the voters for a tax increase.
Anti-tax activist Douglas Bruce spoke out against the proposed ballot question. Bruce says we shouldn't raise taxes; especially in a recession.
Another concern is the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority, which is already asking voters for an extension on that tax for roads and bridges on the November ballot. Some say having too many taxes on the ballot may discourage voters from saying yes to any of them.
"As an elected official, you don't want to be the one going out asking the taxpayers to pay more," says Sheriff Maketa. "I feel I owe it to our citizens to be honest and tell them what our needs are."
We'll see if the voters agree.
County commissioners will see the actual wording of the question on Thursday. If it passes on two readings the question will be put on the November ballot. All of this has to be done before the County Clerk certifies the ballot on September 7th.