EL PASO COUNTY – El Paso County Commissioners are hoping voters will extend the 1A Public Safety Sales Tax this November. The 0.23 percent sales tax doesn’t expire until January of 2021, but the board voted Tuesday to put the renewal question on the ballot a few years early. If passed, the tax would be extended until the year 2029.
In their resolution referring the question to the ballot, the commissioners make a special point of calling out all of the illegal marijuana grows that are popping up in the county and the financial burden they create for the sheriff’s office and taxpayers.
“Resources of the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office are being further stretched due to an alarming increase in dangerous organized criminal activity financed by illegal marijuana grow operations, many of which are directed by foreign cartels engaged in criminal activities that include human trafficking, illegal weapons and the production and distribution of a wide variety of dangerous drugs,” the document reads.
The ballot question specifies three areas of need for the Sheriff’s Office where the money is to be spent: law enforcement duties, the jail, and wildfire response.
Not included in the resolution or ballot language is a mention that some of the 1A money be directed to the District attorney’s office to prosecute the additional cases.
“My office and the sheriff’s office and the police departments are very interrelated,” explained 4th Judicial District Attorney Dan May. “When you increase their budgets, you get greater public safety but I get more cases.”
He addressed the board Tuesday specifically asking for an increase in general fund spending for his office to help meet the demand.
The 1A sales tax collected roughly $22 million last year.
Full ballot language below:
• PURCHASING AMMUNITION, FUEL AND OTHER OPERATIONAL SUPPLIES AND EQUIPMENT, INCLUDING REPLACEMENT OF VEHICLES AS THEY WEAR OUT
2. CRIMINAL JUSTICE NEEDS
• ADDRESSING ADDITIONAL SECURITY, SAFETY, OPERATIONS AND MAINTENANCE COSTS AT THE COUNTY JAIL
3. EMERGENCY RESPONSE NEEDS
• PURCHASING FIRE AND EMERGENCY SERVICES EQUIPMENT, MAINTAINING WILDLAND FIRE TRUCKS AND REPLACING WILDLAND FIRE TRUCKS AS THEY WEAR OUT
WITH SUCH PUBLIC SAFETY SALES AND USE TAX BEING COLLECTED, ADMINISTERED AND ENFORCED PURSUANT TO EL PASO COUNTY BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS RESOLUTION NOS. 12-309