Fate of Public Safety Center Now in Voters' Hands

By: Tim Ciesco Email
By: Tim Ciesco Email

The fate of a new public safety center will now be in the hands of Grand Junction voters. This, after City Council approved two questions that will appear on the November ballot which deal with how to fund the $98 million project.

In a 6 to 1 decision during Monday night's City Council meeting, council members voted to put questions 2a and 2b before city voters.

Question 2a asks voters to raise the city sales tax from the current 2.75% to 3.00%, with that money going to pay for construction and operation costs for seven new public safety buildings.

The public safety initiative, as it is being called, would include a new downtown fire station, three additional fire stations, a parking structure, an annex that would be used for supplies, storage, and training, and a huge public safety center that would house the Police Department, a state of the art 911 dispatch center, municipal courts, and other administrative offices.

Question 2a also states that should question 2b pass, the sales tax would return to 2.75% once debts from Riverside Parkway are paid off. City officials say that date continues to change, but right now they're looking at 2015 or 2016.

Should the tax increase pass, city officials estimate each household would pay roughly 75 cents more a week in sales taxes. The sales tax would not apply to food, medicine, and gasoline purchases. Officials say the sales tax would raise more than $5.2 million in revenues in 2009.

Question 2b asks voters if they want to de-Bruce, or get rid of the cap state tax laws put on how much a governing body can collect in revenues. This would go into effect once the Riverside Parkway is paid off, and would allow the city to keep and spend any excess revenues it collects on other city projects. Officials say they want to make it very clear, a vote of the people would still be required to raise taxes -- this question simply allows them to keep extra money to help deal with extreme city growth.

Should 2a pass and 2b fail, the 3.00% sales tax would be in place indefinitely. City officials say in that case, once the debt to the Riverside Parkway was paid off, they would be left with a lot of excess revenues from the sales tax. At that point they would either have to return the money to the citizens, or put another question 2b before them to allow them to keep the money for other growth projects.

Should 2b pass and 2a fail, the city would be able to keep excess revenues and spend them on other city projects. But city officials say because there is not enough money to pay off the debt for the Riverside Parkway and build a new Public Safety Center, plans for the public safety center would have to be put on hold for a number of years.

Listed below are ballot questions as they will appear on the November ballot:

Question 2A: 1/4 Cent

Shall the City of Grand Junction taxes be increased $5,129,091 in 2009 and annually thereafter by such additional amount as is generated by increasing the city's sales and use tax from 2.75% to 3.00% for the purpose of financing the costs of constructing and operating public safety facilities and acquiring equipment for the facilities provided that such tax increase shall terminate if Question 2b passes at this election and when the Riverside Parkway bonds have been defeased or are otherwise legally paid in full; and shall the city be authorized to collect, retain, and spend such revenues and any investment earnings and interest on such revenues and any investment earnings and interest on such revenues, as a voter approved revenue change under article X, section 20, of the Colorado Constitution?

Question 2b: TABOR Revenue Limitation

Commencing no later than the 90th day after the city has defeased or otherwise legally paid in full all city debt issued for Riverside Parkway shall the City of Grand Junction be authorized to collect, retain, and spend all city revenues from whatever source, as a voter approved revenue change under article X, section 20, of the Colorado Constitution?


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