In November, Jefferson County voters will decide Ballot Issue 1A, a sweeping override of existing County revenue limits that will result in a higher tax burden for Jeffco property owners and residents. But make no mistake, Issue 1A is bad policy.
Why? Because this measure requires you to make several unsubstantiated assumptions: 1) that there is a budget crisis, 2) without further authority for the County to spend even more of your money, rapists and murderers will freely roam Jeffco, and 3) that Issue 1A solves the problem.
What budget crisis?
For the last 27 years, Jeffco’s been able to manage and appropriate a budget. In fact, year after year after year, Jeffco has been nationally acclaimed for having a balanced budget. And yet, our elected officials tell us we’re in a “crisis,” that we’ve run out of money and can’t provide critical services, like public safety. Without any explanation, we’re told that the award-winning, lean, County government is now unable to make ends meet. Saying there’s a crisis doesn’t make it so. In this respect, the refusal on the part of our Jeffco elected officials to fully demonstrate and answer this question is disappointing and disrespectful.
Taking our elected officials’ word for it is easy because nobody wants to go thru 300+ pages of budget. But, I have and compared it to the past five years’ budgets, spending continues to go up, year after year. Is that a “crisis”? We’ve given the County millions of our tax dollars, but it’s not enough. In fact, they want more, but won’t justify the current spending nor explain where cost cutting efforts have been made. Which leads to the next assumption we’re required to make – Jeffco’s budget is lean.
We’re so skinny it hurts
Jeffco’s elected officials tell us that they’ve all tightened their belts so much that it is impossible to continue. But, a review of the past five years of budgeting doesn’t show that – in fact, spending continues to increase year after year. Is that “lean”? I think not. When asked to identify areas where cuts have been made, the answer is to point to the budget document and say “you show me, Mr. Citizen, where you think we should be making the cuts”.
Two assumptions, completely unsupported. Condescending refusals to answer legitimate questions. On that basis alone, Issue 1A warrants a NO vote. However, there is another reason to stop this proposal – even if there were a “crisis” 1A doesn’t solve the problem.
The language of Issue 1A doesn’t solve the “crisis”
Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Shrader says that without additional funding, he’ll be forced to close two floors of the Jeffco jail. But, the $16.1 million increased spending for 2020 articulated in Issue 1A? Staff has told the County Commissioners that money will go to replenish capital reserves. Moreover, there is no mandatory language directing the expenditures to go towards public safety. Sure it COULD happen. Issue 1A states the money “shall” be spent in any of four categories. The language of this proposition doesn’t earmark your increased taxpayer dollars. It COULD go to public safety. Or it could go to improving our roads or maintenance of County facilities, or it could go towards the broadest of the four categories: anything Jeffco (or any other county in Colorado) “traditionally” spends money on.
Assuming a budget crisis, assuming significant cuts have already been made, assuming public safety would be the sacrificial lamb if an increase in spending isn’t authorized, even though 1A does not guarantee that increased spending will go to fund public safety.
For all these reasons, I urge a NO vote on Jeffco Issue 1A. But, please don’t just take my word – read it for yourself. Does it make sense? Does it solve the problem or does it create more dangerous, unintended consequences? I think you’ll agree that Issue 1A is a bad solution to an unsubstantiated problem.
Visit www.jeffcotaxhike.com for more reasons to vote NO.
Tina Francone is a former Jefferson County Commissioner