Business community contributes to tax issues passing

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Ballot issues to raise taxes have not historically fared well in El Paso County. So it was a surprise to some when two such issues passed with wide margins Tuesday.

Ballot issue 1A, which called for a 23-hundredths of a cent sales tax increase to support staffing increases and equipment upgrades at the Sheriff’s Office, passed with more than 60 percent of the vote. And ballot measure 6A, to extend the 0.55 percent sales tax increase for Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority’s road and infrastructure projects, amassed nearly 80 percent of votes.

Those behind the campaigns say wide support from the business community helped the measures pass.

“We were really grateful to the (Colorado Springs) Regional Business Alliance for all their support,” said Rachel Beck, spokeswoman for PPRTA.

Joe Raso, president and CEO of the Business Alliance, said the organization reached out to its members to let them know it supported both ballot measures.

“A healthy economy depends on good infrastructure and safety,” Raso said after the election.

Sheriff Terry Maketa said he’d heard there was wide support for 1A, but he was shocked when he saw the votes come in. “This has been at least a decade in the making,” he said, though he didn’t pursue his proposal with county commissioners until after the Waldo Canyon fire.

Other ballot measures to increase taxes in support of the Sheriff’s Office have failed every time they’ve come up since 1995, he said. This time, he tailored the request in a way voters had told him they would vote for it. It was a single issue, and a sunset clause will allow voters to revisit the tax in 2021.

“This morning was the first morning I was driving to work knowing I wasn’t going to be in a fight for staffing or worrying about budget cuts,” Maketa said Wednesday. “There was a huge sense of relief.”

He said the business community was very supportive of the measure, adding: “Obviously, for businesses to thrive in El Paso County, they have to be secure. They need a safe environment for themselves and their employees in order to grow and thrive.”

Maketa said his office will begin hiring civilians right away and will host academies in January, April and August to train new deputies. He should start to see the first dollars flow through in March, he said.

The original PPRTA measure passed with 55 percent of the vote when it was first presented in 2004.

Raso said the measure was particularly important to the business community and had broad support.

“We have to have the infrastructure in place to move workforce and to move inventory,” he said. “Businesses understand that.”

PPRTA gives the region leverage when negotiating with the state and federal government on projects.

“We’re putting skin in the game as a region,” Raso said, “and we have the reasonable expectation that state will respond to that commitment.”