Election Guide: Oak Creek seeks to better fund Police Department | SteamboatToday.com

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Election Guide: Oak Creek seeks to better fund Police Department

Referendum 2D

Shall town of Oak Creek sales taxes be increased $39,000 annually (estimated first full fiscal year dollar increase), and by whatever additional amounts are raised annually thereafter, by increasing the rate of the town sales tax by 1% (from 3% to 4%) commencing January 1, 2012; and shall the revenues from such sales tax rate increase be used to fund costs of salaries, equipment and operations of the Oak Creek Police Department? And shall all revenues from such sales tax rate increase, and investment income thereon, constitute a voter-approved revenue change and exception to the limits which would otherwise apply under Article X, Section 20 of the Colorado Constitution?

If Oak Creek voters pass Referen­dum 2D this fall, the town will generate additional annual revenue specifically to augment funding for its Police Department.

Referendum 2D would raise the town sales tax rate from 3 to 4 percent. The funds from the potential tax increase — which the town estimates will generate about $39,000 in its first full fiscal year — likely would be used to hire another police officer in addition to full-time officer Lance Dunaway and seasonal officer Eileen Rossi.

Dunaway said the current staff is not enough to serve the town of almost 900 residents.

"I think it's a difficult time to be asking to raise taxes," he said. "Having said that, since I've been in Oak Creek, the people have had a part-time Police Department at best.

"My part-time officer's hours have been cut and code enforcement has been eliminated.

"Adding a second full-time officer would not create a full-time Police Department, but it's going to be a huge step in the right direction."

Dunaway is paid $58,000 a year plus benefits, and Rossi earns $35 an hour with a cap of $18,000 a year. The total police budget for 2011 is $150,000, but $42,000 of that was a capital outlay to purchase a new police cruiser. Those funds could not be used for salaries.

Residents of Oak Creek pay 6.9 percent in sales tax. The 3 percent rate is in addition to the 1 percent county sales tax and the 2.9 percent state sales tax.

Oak Creek Town Board member Bernie Gagne said that he has a hard time considering raising taxes during difficult times but that the town is looking at declining revenues across the board.

"I am not, overall, in support of raising taxes in such a difficult economy," he said. "I don't take this lightly. I wouldn't be surprised if people vote against it. But we have to throw it out there. There's a contingency that expects more from our Police Department."

Dunaway was hired in November 2009 and trained under Rossi.

Dunaway said he has been happy with the board's support throughout his tenure.

"I do think the Town Board has done a good job of looking at options," he said. "They're trying to do the best they can. It's a difficult situation; it's a small town, and there's not a lot of resources and revenue being generated."

Still, he said he is in favor of hiring another officer to help provide law enforcement for Oak Creek. And the money has to come from somewhere.

"It would provide better service for the citizens," he said.