Monroe seeks sales tax levy increase to add police

MONROE — Police in Monroe are asking voters to approve a sales tax increase proposal on the primary election ballot.

If approved, the levy would add one-tenth of 1 percent to Monroe’s sales tax, now at 8.6 percent, effectively adding 10 cents sales tax for a $100 purchase.

The new levy would generate an estimated $309,353 in annual revenue, Police Chief Tim Quenzer said. State law would require Monroe to transfer about $46,400 of that to Snohomish County government. The rest would go toward the city’s crime and justice needs.

The first step would be hiring two new police officers, Quenzer said.

“It would put more officers on the street,” department spokeswoman Debbie Willis said.

The department has made roughly $1 million in cuts in recent years, including officer and civilian positions.

Before the cuts, the department assigned officers to three beats within the city, Quenzer said. That meant quicker response times, and gave officers a work-around if key routes were clogged by traffic or passing trains.

Staffing cuts have reduced the department to two beats, and the number of daily emergency calls per officer has risen, Quenzer said. Meanwhile, because Monroe is the transportation hub for east county, its daytime traffic is more like that of a town more than double its size, he said.

The chief also cited the department’s costly large-scale investigations in recent years, including an unsolved homicide from 2012. The department has spent roughly $25,000 in that case just on DNA testing, he said. Some of the money came from the city’s traffic-enforcement cameras, but the cameras are set to be taken down later this year.

The measure requires a simple majority to pass, said Garth Fell, county elections manager. Voters did not approve a similar levy Monroe ran in 2011.

Monroe has 29 funded commissioned police officer positions, not including the chief and deputy chief. Six unfunded positions are vacant.

The Monroe police budget for 2013 is $5.2 million. If voters approve the sale tax increase, its collection would start in January.

Signs posted in town and other promotional materials were paid for by the officers guild. The chief also visited with community groups and faith groups to talk up the levy.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com.

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