Brighton Police Chief Matt Domenico knows what he’ll do if voters approve Ballot Question 3F, which asks for a new 15-cent sales tax on $100 spent.
“Brighton is kind of a unique community, we are surrounded by interstate highways, along with really high volume going through the middle of town,” Domenico said. “Traffic and roadway safety are a for concern for residents. Funding additional traffic safety positions would definitely be one of our goals. Additional detectives both in our general detective division, along with task forces would be as well. And then providing a team that can be quickly deployed to deal with new issues we are dealing with.”
He’s not so sure what he’ll do if the tax fails.
“I have certainly had conversations with the city manager and other city leadership about what the consequences of that would be,” he said. “How do we prioritize services and make sure that we’re providing the best? I think there is a commitment to continue to be creative and innovative. I mean, it’s not going to shut us down. But it would put a real challenge on us to provide a level of service that our communities demand.”
Based on polling the city did in the spring, Domenico said he’s confident his department is on the right track.
“I think what we learned from that is that the city is supportive of the work the police department is doing and that many of the likely voters would be willing to absorb some additional sales tax to ensure the police department is funded at the level it should be,” Domenico said.
15 cents on $100
Councilors agreed in August to put a proposed sales tax on the Nov. 7 ballot. If voters approve, the city will begin collecting 15 cents on $100 spent in the city limits in 2024. That money will be set aside for the police department, allowing them to two hire 12 new department employees — most of them sworn officers.
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“We’re dealing with huge increases in auto theft, as many agencies are,” Domenico said. “Vehicle trespasses are up, too. So having a dedicated team of officers that can go out and work in partnership with the businesses, the residents, the neighborhood groups that are reporting those quality of life issues.”
The city began looking for ways to increase the department’s budget last year, considering two plans to raise the $2 million – a sales tax or a property tax.
The City Council convened an outreach group to poll residents at city events in April and May and settled on the sales tax.
The ballot measure would ask voters to approve a 0.15% sales tax increase, which would cost consumers 15 cents on a $100 purchase. The tax would begin in 2024 if voters agree in November.
The increase would boost Brighton’s sales tax rate to 8.65% in the Adams County portions of Brighton and 7.9% in the Weld County portion.
Retail buyers in Brighton currently pay 2.9% sales tax to the state, 1.1% to special districts and 3.75% to the city for general operations, capital projects and parks. Adams County collects an additional 0.75% for the portion of Brighton in Adams County.
Shops in Prairie Center pay an additional 2.25% to the Prairie Center Metropolitan District.
Population, technological drivers
The new tax would generate between $2 million and $2.75 million depending on the overall economy and retail sales in the city. Domenico said current estimates predict it will generate roughly $2.25 million.
That money is necessary to help the department keep pace with Brighton’s population. Right now, the city has 1.8 officers for each 1,000 Brighton residents, he told councilors earlier in the year. The Front Range average is about 2.5 officers per 1,000 residents.
“Brighton has been quickly growing and we’ve seen major increases in our population over the course of the last decade, plus,” Domenico said. “Our jurisdictional boundaries are generally the same, but we infilled a lot within those jurisdictional boundaries. So population growth is a piece of it. And then those increasing demands, you know, getting body cameras and things like that are part of it.”
New positions could include task force detectives dedicated to addressing specific crimes such as motor vehicle theft, sexual assault, and other felonies. It would also let the department add additional patrol, traffic, and investigations officers and would let the city create an Impact Team that would be able to quickly respond to crime issues.
It would include professional staff to aid investigations, too.
“We’ve implemented things like investigative technicians in our Detective Division,” Domenico said. “Investigative technicians can do much of the same work that a police officer can do but they’re not a sworn staff member. They can’t make an arrest and they can’t go out and file charges with the District Attorney’s Office but they can do a lot of the legwork, which frees our detectives up to have more time to do what they need. And we continue to look for creative ways to make sure that we have the personnel and the resources we need.”