Pueblo City Council is giving it another shot. Monday night the seven council members approved a question for the November ballot that, if passed, would increase the sales tax by .2 percent for the purpose of hiring more police officers.
This is the second attempt at increasing taxes for public safety for the City of Pueblo, which has been fighting a gang and opioid epidemic in addition to a police officer shortage. Last year, council submitted to voters a more ambitious plan for a half-cent sales tax hike. Then, the tax would have covered 24 new police officers, a new fire station, new roads and new parks.
57 percent of Pueblo voters said no. This time around council hopes they’ll gain some support by keeping the question short, sweet and focused on police needs.
But if recent history is any indication, the outlook is bleak.
Last year, a citizens group in Pueblo ran a similar public safety question that asked for a quarter-cent tax raise for police only. It failed with 55 percent of Pueblo voters opposing the question.
Now the same group is looking at running another safety question alongside the city’s more focused, condensed safety tax.
Pueblo County hasn’t found the sweetspot from voters either.
In 2015, Pueblo County Sheriff Kirk Taylor ran a ballot question that asked for a one-cent tax increase to fund a new jail. Despite severe overcrowding and deteriorating infrastructure, that tax also failed.
It’s unclear so far, but Pueblo County may attempt the question again this year. A taskforce led by Pueblo County Commissioner Garrison Ortiz is currently looking at how to alleviate the overcrowded jail. A political subcommittee is looking at what it might take to pass a tax for the jail — though Ortiz has said the group is looking at every option to address the jail.
If a question is submitted to the ballot, some Pueblo voters could be looking at three questions on how to fund different aspects of public safety in Pueblo.