Sheriff answers Bruce's anti-tax arguments

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Sheriff Terry Maketa
  • Sheriff Terry Maketa

On Thursday, the TABOR Notice for the 2012 election came out. According to the press release:

The TABOR Notice (Taxpayer Bill of Rights) for the 2012 General Election in November is now available on the El Paso County Clerk & Recorder’s website. Colorado law requires that prior to each election, a Notice of Election be provided regarding the ballot issues which are regulated by TABOR. The official title is “Notice of Election to Increase Taxes/to Increase Debt/on a Citizen Petition/on a Referred Measure.”

The TABOR Notice contains the ballot issue and the statements in favor of the issue and against the issue.

One of the most controversial issues on the ballot is the proposed tax increase to fund shortfalls in the El Paso County Sheriff's budget.

We've written about this ballot issue 1A, quite a bit. You can read up on it here, here and here.

For your further edification, you can read the TABOR Notice, which presents submitted comments arguing the pros and cons. In this instance, according to Alissa Vander Veen with the clerk's office, the arguments for were submitted by Terry Harris and Richard Williams.

The cons were submitted by Douglas Bruce.

Here are some of the pros:

1A is a sales tax—-visitors pay their fair share. Most necessities (food, gas, utilities, prescriptions) are exempt. 1A’s rate is just .0023 which means 23 cents per $100.00 ($46 on a $20,000 car).

This money is truly needed. The Sheriff's Office is mandated by state law to serve all County residents inside and outside of municipal boundaries. It must provide for an average of 1,430 inmates at the County jail and respond to crime and wildland fire throughout the County. 80% of County jail inmates are arrested in the cities, but the County must cover the cost.

The County population grew 60% since 1990. The Sheriff's Office patrol staff is the same as it was in 1990, despite a 137% increase in calls for service, with only nine deputies per shift covering 1,898 square miles.Patrol deputies and citizens are at risk because of slower response times and insufficient staffing to provide timely back up for deputies responding to violent crimes.

And here are some of the cons:

Higher taxes will destroy our fragile economy. Bigger government hurts consumers and business. It will kill jobs. Sales taxes hurt most seniors and others on fixed incomes. The tax will cost average families of four over $100 yearly. For what? The basics should not cost extra.

The sheriff pays $1,443,170 yearly in salaries to fourteen people. Each gets more than the governor. Then add 25% for pensions and benefits and it exceeds $1.8 million. Does he need a $99,000 psychologist? No. Does he need a $99,000 legal advisor to replace the $130,000 county attorney and her overpaid staff attorneys? No.

The sheriff's office has demanded higher taxes three times since 1995. Voters rejected all three, most recently by 60% to 40%. His budget was $20.9 million in 1995; it is now $47.8 million, UP 129%. He now gets 47% of the county general fund budget and wants still more—a 36% budget increase under issue 1A.



As we reported last week, Sheriff Terry Maketa has been hustling to elaborate on the need for the increase, and lately finding audiences generally receptive. With Bruce anything but, we asked Maketa to respond to a couple of the anti-tax crusader's claims.

First, Maketa pointed out that the 14 positions that Bruce points to are in his command staff.

"Which would be in the rank of commander, bureau chief, undersheriff and myself, I'm sure he's including me in there. My salary is set by state law; the undersheriff is required by state statute," he says.

The salaries for his command staff, he says, are set by the market.

"Could I survive without a psychologist?" he asks. "Yes."

But, he adds, since he brought on the psychologist in 2009 he has seen numerous benefits: help with the stresses and traumas that his deputies deal with, and the ability to interact with civilians suffering with PTSD.

"[The hire] has saved us loss of job hours, and it's been an invaluable resource in a very high military community," he says.

The attorney is specialized to deal with law enforcement issues, Maketa says, and can't help but point out that the county attorney gets paid $30,000 more a year.

"I kind of chuckled when I saw that," he says. "It goes to show we're paying less."

As for the increase in the sheriff's budget since 1995, Maketa argues, "A lot of that is tied to the jail. Most of the increases to the budget has come from the jail-bed expansion, the medical contracts. Those costs have more than tripled."

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