Pueblo voters will vote on extending the city’s public safety sales tax

PUEBLO — Voters in Pueblo will decide whether to renew the city’s public safety sales tax for the next five years. That’s a 0.2 percent sales tax expansion.

Pueblo Police Chief Chris Noeller said the department has spent over $18 million over the past five years with tax revenue.

Meanwhile, News5 recently spoke with two business owners targeted by crime who are in favor of the tax. They hope a yes vote will help prevent criminals from targeting their business again.

Graham’s Grill on the city’s north side and Big Bear Wine & Liquor were burglarized in September.

“They took my POS system, iPads, drinks, in and out, they did about $2,500 worth of damage to two doors,” said Pam Graham, owner of Graham’s Grill.

“They would steal all kinds of alcohol, high end stuff, cigarettes, you name it,” said Brian Lucas, owner of Big Bear Wine & Liquor.

Both businesses were broken into again four days later. At Graham’s Grill, a burglar stole an ATM.

“You know, it’s hard on a small business when you have to replace it,” Graham said.

“At one point I had plywood on every door in my building, and you know, enough was enough,” Lucas said.

That’s why they vote ‘yes’ on ballot 2B.

“I hope the citizens understand how important their vote five years ago was to where we are today,” said Chief Noeller.

With tax revenue, the department replaced their entire fleet of 80+ vehicles and added advanced computer systems. They also added 24 authorized positions to the police force, although many positions are currently vacant.

“If you take away positions, I can’t fill them. If I have positions, yes, they are vacant right now, but I can work to fill them,” Chief Noeller said.

If voters vote yes, the department wants to continue a strong recruiting effort to fill those positions and spend about $2.8 million on drones and drone programs, replacing laptops and in-vehicle cameras and buying more cars.

“Something like a public safety sales tax, I think it shows the community’s commitment to that police force,” Chief Noeller said. “New cars that are beautiful and one can be proud of actually being in the vehicle. I think those are recruiting tools.”

Chief Noeller says the “no” vote means the department is losing 24 officers and their recruiting efforts won’t be as strong.

“If I lose the public safety sales tax money, I don’t have the money in my operating budget to buy that technology and do things like that,” Chief Noeller said.

People who oppose the measure have questions like, will the money actually go where it’s supposed to? While it’s an expansion of the sales tax, opponents say it shouldn’t fall on taxpayers and the public. Instead, it should fall to the city, which adjusts its budget accordingly.

However, business owners believe a “yes” vote will help fight crime in Pueblo.

“Our crime is far from everything that happens in our city. So I feel like that’s a good thing,” Graham said.

“Now is not the time to cut police funding, I think the police are doing as well as they can with the funds they have,” Lucas said.

If the public safety sales tax is not renewed, it will expire in December.

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