The town of Monument will ask voters this fall to decide whether the town should move to municipal autonomy, part of a bid that officials say will give residents more of a voice in running local government.
The Monument board voted 6-1 Monday night to put a measure on the November ballot that would create a nine-person Home Rule Charter Commission if approved. In the same election, voters would also select the members of the commission. The commission would have six months to draft a new city charter, which would be presented to voters in a future election, city attorney Andrew Richey said.
In Colorado, self-governing cities have more power to set regulations and more control over day-to-day operations, Richey said. Without self-governing status, towns like Monument are governed by rules established by the Colorado General Assembly and cannot make ordinances that conflict with state laws, says the Colorado Local Government Handbook 2018 .
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“The quality of the constitution charter you’re going to get is the quality of the nine people you vote on” at the Home Rule Charter Commission, Administrator Jim Romanello said. “I think that’s probably going to be one of the most extremely important things to be voted on here.”
City leaders have been discussing the proposal for several months.
A spring survey of 382 residents found that 41% approved of the creation of a self-reliance charter commission. Twenty-three percent said they would reject the question and 36% were undecided.
If voters approve of the change, the most significant changes would be to community development and the city’s overall financial well-being, Richey previously said.
According to Mayor Don Wilson, the city would have more flexibility with its land use standards, zoning and economic incentives for incoming businesses. There are also more revenue opportunities as the city could, with voter approval, pass visitor and tourism taxes, such as the lodging tax and new user fees.
The council also voted 4-3 on Monday to ask voters to raise the local sales tax by half a percent, from 3% to 3.5%, to fund police services.
Monument’s population has increased by 34% over the past decade and calls to the police have increased by 53%, staff said in meeting documents. Raising the local sales tax would create “a dedicated and adequate source of funding to meet growing public safety needs” and align the number of police officers with population growth, staff said.
Administrator Ron Stephens questioned why the issue was coming back on the ballot after voters last November canceled a similar ballot question, with more than 57% of residents voting against the sales tax increase.
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Monument Police Chief Sean Hemingway said since November, he and other city staff have been doing more community outreach to better educate residents on the issue.
“One thing we heard was that residents weren’t sure if the money would just go to the police department,” Hemingway said. “Another thing we heard was that there was some confusion over the language (of the ballot).
Another municipal survey conducted in the spring of 563 registered voters found that 60% would support a local sales tax increase supporting police departments, with 27% opposed and 13% undecided. Additionally, the new ballot wording is much clearer, Richey said.
The tax increase would generate about $1.65 million a year for police, Richey said.
The department plans to use the money to hire eight more officers, repair or replace patrol cars and hire a sexual assault detective. The department said it was also planning a special unit to deal with vehicle burglaries, drugs, residential burglaries and human trafficking, according to meeting documents.
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