Cash-strapped El Paso County is leaning heavily on volunteerism, a trend bound to grow as recession-era budget wranglers continue to cut into services. Sheriff Terry Maketa’s Office announced that volunteers logged 91,294 hours last year to save his department $1.2 million. The announcement is especially timely given that El Paso County Seat Colorado Springs, tax-averse and cash-strapped, is making news for beginning to shut down basic services across the board.
County volunteer corp members have undertaken a wide range of duties, including patroling streets, advocating for victims, undergoing investigative internships and fighting wild fires. There are 521 members of the corps.
“Our most recent and increasingly popular program is our Citizen’s Patrol. These individuals work alongside our deputies to provide support in areas where a uniformed deputy is not required to respond. This may include assisting in animal complaints, addressing abandoned vehicles, taking care reports where there are no suspects and providing traffic control,” said Deputy Theresa Murphy.
El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa also thanked volunteers.
“I extend my heartfelt gratitude to each of the many individuals who volunteer with our organization. Every hour spent benefits the Office, our employees and ultimately the El Paso county Community. Thank you for your dedication,” he said.
In Colorado Springs, the city budget is deep in the red, and budget cuts are likely to burden the county. According to the Denver Post, 2010 sales-taxes in the city are projected to come in $22 million short of totals from 2007. Police and firefighting operations lost more than $5.5 million this year. Beat cops, vice and burglary investigators, a domestic violence specialist and juvenile-offender officers are among the public servants being laid off. The city has also put its Vietnam-era patrol helicopters up for sale.
The conservative Springs population handily voted down a steep property tax increase proposed to partially fill the budget hole.