LONGMONT — City voters are being asked to approve a pair of tax increases aimed at boosting both tourism and public safety.
If approved, the public safety tax would generate $5.3 million in its first full year. The city’s police and fire departments want to use the money to improve response times and put more officers and firefighters on the street.
Speaking on behalf of the tax during the Daily Times-Call’s election forum Thursday night, Police Chief Mike Butler said his department is challenged by gangs and the highly addictive drug methamphetamine.
“The police department is now confronting issues that it has not had to confront previously,” he said. “We don’t believe we have enough resources.”
Butler said the police department would use the extra sales tax — 3.25 cents on a $10 purchase — to put more police on the street, in schools and on the Internet fighting cybercrime and identity theft.
The fire department would use a portion of the money to open a new station in the center of the city and hire new firefighters to staff it.
Resident Paul Tiger said that while public safety is a proper place for government to spend tax money, he worries that it lacks a sunset clause and is necessary because the city has permitted “leapfrog” development.
There is no organized opposition to the safety tax. Tiger asked to speak against the tax a few hours before the forum began.
“Let’s not confuse public safety with empire building,” he said.
If the tax fails, the city will likely have to reprioritize its proposed 2007 budget to figure out how to permanently fund what is now a temporary six-member anti-gang unit.
Councilwoman Mary Blue urged voters to approve the proposed lodging tax, which would amount to 2 cents on every $10 spent on hotel rooms.