It's after 5 on a Friday, and about 30 citizens are spending date night with El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa at Stetson Hills police station.
After speaking for a half hour — about needing more personnel and more cash for the mounted unit, employee raises, hazardous materials response, emergency management and jail repairs — Maketa gets no pushback. In fact, one woman blurts out ideas for how to promote his .0023 percent sales tax increase.
Likewise, the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance, formerly the Chamber and EDC, and the Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs support the hike, despite their generally being allied with Springs Mayor Steve Bach. Bach has spoken against the measure and even opposed Maketa using the city police station for the meeting, the sheriff tells the Independent, worrying it might be seen as a de facto endorsement of the proposal.
The sheriff tells the group he knows it's a bad time to seek a tax hike that would pull $17 million a year from the community. But he notes the tax won't apply to groceries, medicine and utilities — the bills that those on fixed incomes worry about most. The tax would expire after eight years, and lots can happen in that time, he says; perhaps the oil and gas business will bring the county lots of new revenue.
His department has stretched the dollar as far as it can, Maketa adds. "All I'm asking for is that we support those who go out and protect us," he says, noting the number of patrol deputies hasn't changed since 1990, and that those deputies often rely on backup that's a half-hour away.
While Bach may not be convinced, one local mayor is. Reached by phone Monday, Fountain Mayor Jeri Howells says she supports the tax. "The sheriff is being responsible," she says, "in bringing the true needs of his department forward to the community."