The Town of Monument will ask voters this fall to decide if the town should move to municipal home rule, in a bid officials contend will give residents more say in how local government is run.
The Monument Board of Trustees 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 commission members. The commission would have six months to draft a new town charter, which would head to voters in a future election, Town Attorney Andrew Richey said.
In Colorado, home rule cities have more authority to set regulations and more control over day-to-day operations, Richey has said. Without home rule status, towns like Monument fall under rules set by the Colorado General Assembly and can’t set ordinances that conflict with state laws, the 2018 Colorado Local Government Handbook states.
“The quality of the constitution charter you’re going to get is the quality of the nine people that you vote on” to the Home Rule Charter Commission, Trustee Jim Romanello said. “I think this is going to be probably one of the most extremely important things that’s ever going to be voted on here.”
Town leaders have been discussing the proposal for several months.
A survey of 382 residents conducted in the spring found 41% approved creating a Home Rule Charter Commission. Twenty-three percent said they would reject the question, and 36% were undecided.
If voters approved the switch, the biggest changes would be on community development and the town’s overall financial well-being, Richey has previously said.
Under home rule the town would have more flexibility with its land use standards, zoning and economic incentives for incoming businesses, Mayor Don Wilson has said. There are also more opportunities for revenue because the town could, with voter approval, adopt taxes on visitors and tourism, such as lodging tax and some new user fees.
The board also voted 4-3 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 increased by 34% in the past decade and police calls went up 53%, staff said in meeting documents. Raising the local sales tax would create “a dedicated and adequate funding source to meet the growing public safety needs” and bring the number of police officers in line with population growth, staff said.
Trustee Ron Stephens asked why the question was returning to the ballot after voters last November struck down a similar ballot question, with more than 57% of residents voting against raising the sales tax.
Monument Police Chief Sean Hemingway said since November he and other town staff have done more community outreach to better educate residents on the issue.
“One thing we heard was that residents didn’t know if the money would go solely to the police department,” Hemingway said. “Another thing we heard was that there was some confusion about the (ballot) language.”
Another town survey of 563 registered voters conducted in the spring found 60% would support a local sales tax increase supporting police services, with 27% opposed and 13% undecided. Additionally, the new ballot language is much clearer, Richey said.
The tax increase would generate approximately $1.65 million a year for police, Richey said.
The department plans to use the money to hire eight more officers, fix or replace patrol cars, and hire a sexual assault detective. The department said it also plans a special unit to combat vehicle break-ins, drugs, residential burglaries and human trafficking, meeting documents show.
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