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Puebloans vote for new leadership and new money for public safet - KOAA.com | Continuous News | Colorado Springs and Pueblo

Puebloans vote for new leadership and new money for public safety

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Pueblo's police academy will be busy after voters approved a sales tax increase to pay for an addition of 24 new officers to the force. File image of Pueblo Police Graduation Ceremony Pueblo's police academy will be busy after voters approved a sales tax increase to pay for an addition of 24 new officers to the force. File image of Pueblo Police Graduation Ceremony
PUEBLO -

Pueblo voters want their City to be safer and they've chosen to give themselves a new mayor who will have both the authority and the money to follow that mandate.

Ballot Question 2A amends the City Charter to establish a Strong Mayor form of government. The community will elect that new mayor next November. They will have the power to set budgets, make appointments to City boards and committees, and hire and fire department heads including the Police and Fire chiefs. However, those decisions will all be made with confirmation by City Council. 

The new mayor will also have veto power over any ordinance passed by the Council. However, the Council could then override the mayor if 5 of the 7 members agree. They will earn an annual salary of $150,000 and serve a five year initial term, presumably so that re-election can align with the existing City election cycle which occurs during odd numbered years.

Voters overwhelmingly passed Ballot Question 2B which will raise City sales tax by 0.2 percent for a 5 year period specifically to pay for additional police officers. The measure was referred to the ballot by City Council and was the least expensive of the three tax proposals in front of voters this year.

Pueblo Police Chief Troy Davenport said the extra money will help the department respond even faster to emergency calls. It's expected to raise approximately $3.6 million per year which is enough to hire 24 new officers and provide them with all the equipment and training they need from body cameras to police cars.

"I'm not happy with our response times, although they're trending in the right direction with the manpower that we already have," Davenport said. "Still, 24 additional officers is just gonna help tremendously."

Voters across Pueblo County turned down the largest tax question, 1A. It would have raised sales taxes by 0.45 percent for a period of 30 years in order to finance construction of a new jail. As we've reported, Pueblo has the most over-crowded jail in the state.

Commissioner Garrison Ortiz led the effort to try and raise money to address the jail crowding. He said the County can't afford to borrow money for a new jail.

"We cannot take on this financial burden our selves as a County, there is just not enough room in the County's debt service profile to be able to bond a facility of this magnitude."

He said even renovating the existing building would be too expensive. He established the Pueblo Jail Task Force to study the crowding issue and that committee estimated it would cost up to $50 million just to improve existing buildings.

The third tax question was a citizen led effort. Issue 300 would have also raised sales taxes to hire more police officers. It proposed a 0.25 percent tax increase for 10 years, but the money came with several restrictions on how those new officers should serve the community. As of 9:30 p.m. it was failing by about 500 votes.

Question 2C was the shortest of the four questions in front of voters in the City.  It simply asked for the creation of a new Street Repair Enterprise but did not mention how the City will fund that new venture.  It passed by more than 3,000 votes.

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