El Paso County voters to decide on sales tax increase for public safety

Election

We’re breaking down El Paso County Measure 1A, which asks to extend the Public Safety Sales Tax. 

The .23 percent sales tax approved by voters in 2012 doesn’t expire until 2021, but the Board of County Commissioners are asking voters to approve an extension now. 

If passed, the existing tax would be extended to 2029. If not, El Paso County commissioners say it could be a major blow to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office. 

Mark Waller, president pro tem of the Board of County Commissioners said, “We’re seeing record numbers in our jail every day. In addition to that, we have a record number of marijuana grow operations that are happening all over the county specifically out in eastern El Paso County.”

Waller says the Sheriff’s Office overall budget is about $66 million and the Public Safety Tax makes up for about $22 million or one-third of that. 

“If this doesn’t continue moving forward, we’re going to have to reduce his force by over, I believe it’s around, 180 people,” said Waller. 

But those in opposition say the board is not being transparent. 

Joel Miller, who opposes 1A said, “Of course we want to support law enforcement but this is being deceptively presented as, without these funds, you’re going to be hurting law enforcement.” 

Those against the extension say the county does have enough money for public safety, it’s just not being diverted from other funds or prioritized properly. 

“What’s really hurting law enforcement is the county commission’s failure prioritize the dollars they do have and they have them, they’ve been increasing and they keep continuing to increase,” said Miller. 

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