A sales tax increase that would help fund critical needs of the El Paso County Sheriff's Office has passed with voters.
Voters passed 1A, the public safety tax, with nearly 61 percent of the vote. The passing of 1A is expected to generate at least $17 million and will fund putting additional deputies on patrol and in the jail, replace obsolete equipment, cover jail maintenance costs and help with increasing food, fuel and mandatory medical costs.
Citizens will pay twenty-three hundredths ($0.0023) of one cent per dollar which will go into effect Jan. 1.
Maketa said he was shocked by the response of citizens and said that history has shown that if it passed it would be by a narrow margin.
“To see it first flash at 64 percent, that was pleasantly shocking. Very pleasantly shocking,” Maketa said. “It really sent a message that we put together a program that the tax payers understood and that they believed in.”
Sheriff Terry Maketa approached the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners during a special meeting in August about the need for a tax increase and commissioners approved the ballot measure to go to voters during the Sept. 6 BOCC meeting giving the sheriff only two months to try to convince citizens of the urgent need.
Maketa said one of the criticisms that came up was that there was not enough time to get the message out and there was no public process.
“My argument was (that) I've been giving this same message for four years. It's been four years of process and I think the voters demonstrated that. They have been listening, they have been paying attention and also I've responded to the feedback that I've gotten in the past couple attempts and framed this to meet their expectations,” Maketa added.
Maketa said the sheriff's office plans to start hiring new deputies in January and civilian positions immediately. The plan is to have two or three law enforcement academies and one lateral move academy. The academies are 22 weeks long so Maketa said they might phase the academies in or possibly overlap them.
“I anticipate a lot of positions in the process of being filled or being filled by the end of January. We are going to be really aggressive. Our existing workforce really needs the support,” Maketa said.
The sheriff's office wants to be a transparent department and wants to be able to show online what the citizen's tax dollars are being spent on.