PUEBLO — Voters in Pueblo will decide whether to renew the city's Public Safety Sales Tax for the next five years. It’s the extension of .2% percent sales tax.
Pueblo police Chief Chris Noeller said the department has spent over $18 million over the past five years with the revenue generated from the tax.
Meanwhile, News5 spoke to two owners of businesses targeted by crime recently, who are in favor of this tax. They hope a ‘yes’ vote will help prevent criminals from targeting their business again.
Graham's Grill on the north side of town and Big Bear Wine & Liquor were broken into in September.
“They took my POS system, iPads, liquor, in and out, they did about $2,500 damage to the two doors,” said Pam Graham, the owner of Graham’s Grill.
“They would steal all sorts of alcohol, high end stuff, cigarettes, you name it,” said Brian Lucas, the owner of Big Bear Wine & Liquor.
The businesses were both broken into again four days later. At Graham's Grill, the burglar's stole the ATM machine.
“You know, it's tough on a small business when you have to replace that,” said Graham.
“At one point in time, I had plywood on every door of my building, and you know, enough is enough,” said Lucas.
That's why they're voting ‘yes’ on ballot issue 2B.
“I hope the citizens understand how vital their vote five years ago was to where we are today,” said Chief Noeller.
With revenue generated from the tax, the department replaced their entire fleet of 80+ vehicles, and added advanced computer systems. They've also added 24 authorized positions to the police force, although many of the positions remain vacant right now.
“If you take the positions away, I can't fill them. If I have the positions, yes they're vacant right now, but I can work toward filling those,” said Chief Noeller.
If voters vote ‘yes,’ the department wants to continue strong recruiting efforts to fill those positions, and spend about $2.8 million dollars on drones and drone programs, replacing laptops and cameras in vehicles, and buying more cars.
“Something like a public safety sales tax, I think shows the commitment of the community towards that police,” said Chief Noeller. “Newer cars that are nice and somebody can take pride in actually being in the vehicle. I think those are recruiting tools.”
Chief Noeller says a ‘no’ vote means the department loses 24 officers, and their recruiting efforts won't be as strong.
“If I lose the money in the public safety sales tax, I don't have the money in my operating budget to purchase that technology and and do those kinds of things,” said Chief Noeller.
People opposed to the measure have questions like, will the money actually go toward what it's supposed to? While it is an extension of a sales tax, those opposing say that shouldn't fall on tax payers and the public. Instead it should fall on the city adjusting their budget accordingly.
However business owners believe voting ‘yes’ will help combat the crime in Pueblo.
“Our crime is way up with everything that goes on in our city. So I feel that it's a good thing,” said Graham.
“Now is not the time to cut funding for police, I think the police are doing as good as a job that they can with the funding they have,” said Lucas.
If the public safety sales tax is not renewed, it will expire in December.
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