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Police, firefighters pursue ballot question without council's support

By Michelle San Miguel, Multimedia Journalist - Pueblo Chieftain Bureau/Telemundo Anchor, michelle.sanmiguel@krdo.com
Published On: Aug 06 2014 08:44:50 AM CDT
Updated On: Jul 03 2014 10:47:08 AM CDT

Police, firefighters pursue ballot question without council's support

PUEBLO, Colo. -

Pueblo firefighters and police officers are gathering signatures so they can put a question on the ballot this November, asking for a half-cent sales tax increase.

Members of Puebloans United for Public Safety plan to turn in the more than 2,200 signatures they need by Monday. The half-cent sales tax they're proposing would generate about $7 million a year. That money would be evenly split between the police and fire departments to purchase equipment and hire new employees.

No city council member has voiced support for the proposed ballot measure. KRDO NewsChannel 13 asked Council President Sandy Daff if she supports it, and she replied, "You ask me if I would support it, I'd say that I can't at this moment in time."

Daff said the ballot question will take away City Council's control of the police and fire departments budgets. According to the ballot language, those budgets must increase or decrease annually based on sales tax revenue. Some council members are worried it could make the departments rich.

"Our budget still isn't even going to increase by a million dollars over the course of five years so to say that we're going to have two departments that become very rich by making sure that the front-end budget stays within the growth numbers is kind of skewed," said Damian Pritts, a firefighter and vice president of IAFF Local 3.

Even though council has not given its endorsement of the ballot question, some union members believe that will help them more than hurt them.

"There's some people that actually believe that with some of the transparency issues that council has, some of their closed-door meetings, that it will actually help us if they don't endorse it," Pritts said.

Daff is also concerned about the nine-member oversight committee that would monitor how the money is spent. It would be composed of three firefighters, three police officers and three citizens chosen by City Council.

"The balance between union and nonunion representation on that committee is a bit concerning," Daff said.

The tax money cannot be spent on wage or benefit increases for existing personnel.

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