County eyes tax for DA, sheriff
Revenues from a public-safety sales tax in Mesa County would go to the Sheriff’s Office and the district attorney, but those agencies still would have to compete for general-fund money, Mesa County Commissioner Scott McInnis said.
He is working with others to draw up a proposal the commission will consider for the November ballot, McInnis said.
Many details remain to be worked out, but McInnis has made it clear that the measure will seek a sales tax increase that can be used only for the Sheriff’s Office and for prosecutors.
The 2017 county budget includes provisions to increase spending by $1.4 million for the sheriff and $400,000 by the district attorney’s office. Those amounts, though, are well short of the amounts sought by the agencies, and county commissioners said they would consider ways of restoring cuts to both agencies made in 2010.
The sheriff and district attorney wouldn’t be able to rely on the funding for their entire budgets, however, McInnis said. They still would have to compete with other county departments for their shares of the general fund.
Controlling the funding in that way would leave the commissioners in control of the county budget, he said.
The work he’s doing to draft a measure is being done only by him, meaning that his efforts are work product and don’t have to be handled in public, McInnis said.
It would prove too cumbersome to run sample provisions before officials such as the sheriff and DA during public meetings as he works to craft a proposal, McInnis said, noting that at an appropriate time, he’ll place a proposal before the entire commission for public discussion.
“We’re still working on the language,” he said. “Different people have different ideas.”
Among those people are Sheriff Matt Lewis and District Attorney Dan Rubinstein, he said.
Recent events have proved the need for more spending, McInnis said.
“Just last week we had two murders,” he said. “So serious crime has really jumped.”
That leaves McInnis in a unique role for him.
“For the first time in my entire career I’m going to stand out front on a tax increase,” he said. “I’ve looked at it from every other angle and I don’t see any other choice.”
If the Mesa County measure goes forward, it might not be the only one to increase the sales tax.
The state Legislature is considering boosting the statewide sales tax to 3.52 percent from 2.9 percent, to raise $3.5 billion over 20 years for transportation needs.
Purchases in Grand Junction now carry a combined 7.65 percent sales tax, with 2.9 percent going to the state, 2 percent to Mesa County and 2.75 percent to the city.
In Fruita, the city sales tax is 3 percent, making the combined total 7.9 percent. Palisade has a 2 percent sales tax and a combined 6.9 percent sales tax.
Grand Junction is seeking a quarter-cent sales tax increase to pay for a downtown events center. That question is on the April ballot.