14 agencies to benefit from hike in sales tax
Fourteen law enforcement and emergency agencies will share in the bounty of a sales-tax increase aimed primarily at bolstering the Mesa County sheriff’s and district attorney’s offices — if voters approve the measure.
One entity that stands to benefit — the city of Grand Junction — would like to see a greater share of the proceeds for the emergency dispatch center, but Mayor Rick Taggart said he also doesn’t want to endanger the question with infighting.
Commissioner Scott McInnis, Sheriff Matt Lewis and District Attorney Dan Rubinstein are working on a proposal, which they expect to present to the Mesa County Commission in August for placement on the November ballot.
The measure calls for the existing county sales tax, now 2 percent, to be increased to 2.37 percent.
In Grand Junction, that would mean a total sales tax rate of 8.02 percent, or just more than 8 cents on the dollar. In Fruita, it would be 8.27 percent, or 8.27 cents per dollar of sales. Merchants in unincorporated areas would charge a 4.27 percent sales tax.
The increase is estimated to generate $7,175,061 annually to the county and the other 14 agencies, including Grand Junction, which hosts the emergency dispatch center that serves the entire county.
Under the proposed breakdown, each year the Sheriff’s Office would receive $4,828,481 and the DA, $1,207,120. Grand Junction would receive $500,000 and the remaining agencies would split $639,460.
The breakdown of revenues to all recipients except the city, sheriff and DA is based on the percentage of calls on which the emergency center dispatches them. So, the $287,593 earmarked for the Fruita Police Department corresponds to the agency’s 4.01 percent share of calls from the dispatch center.
McInnis said he has little interest in adding to the number of agencies that would benefit from the sales tax.
“Everybody has to remember, our mission is not to fix every problem out there,” McInnis said.
The proposed increase — already difficult enough for a Republican in Mesa County — was to restore the county’s law enforcement arms to make up for funding and position cuts made in 2010, McInnis said.
The county’s 2017 budget included new money — $1.4 million for the Sheriff’s Office and $400,000 for the District Attorney’s office — but no guarantees that funding could continue into 2018. Other county departments also were required to hold down their spending to make room for the additional law enforcement money.
“I want to be supportive of the county because of the fact that it’s in a pretty extreme situation,” Taggart said. “I’m hoping we can continue to talk” about the city’s share, “but I’m not overly optimistic.”
Ultimately, all the agencies will be pleased with shares of the revenues should the measure pass, and the prospects of that occurring are still good, McInnis said.
“I haven’t heard anybody say they want less public safety,” McInnis said.