Editorial: Jail tax extension a case of pay me now or pay me later

One of the most effective advertising campaigns in American history employed a common-sense approach to regularly scheduled oil changes for your car.

“You can pay me now or you can pay me later” made the name “Fram” instantly associated with oil filters.

The Yavapai County Board of Supervisors seems to be taking a page from the Fram oil filter playbook going into the May 15 election to extend the sales tax that partially pays for county jail operations.

Voters originally approved the quarter-cent county sales tax in 1999, primarily to construct the new county jail in Camp Verde, but also to maintain jail operations. It is scheduled to sunset in 2020.

Currently, the ¼-cent tax provides about $8.8 million annually, which accounts for about half the funding needed to maintain and operate the jail.

Like sewers and landfills, people agree on the need for jails, but are not always so willing to pay for them. We saw that happen in November 2014 when Yavapai County voters rejected an increase on the jail district sales tax to a half-cent on the dollar, to construct a new jail in the Prescott area.

This time around, the question is not one of increasing the current quarter-cent tax, but extending it beyond its current 2020 sunset.

It bears emphasis that the defeat of the 2014 jail tax increase did not kill plans to build a new jail in Prescott. That is still going to happen, and county taxpayers will pay for it. We could have paid the county now with a half-cent sales tax, but rest assured we will pay them later as the county will indeed follow through on building a new jail in Prescott.

Ditto for this voter request to extend the current jail tax. If we reject this proposal, it does not mean the need for the nearly $9 million it provides the county jail will go away. Those costs will still exist. The county will continue to provide jail operations as the law requires. And, local taxpayers will pay for it one way or another.

A no vote likely will mean an eventual increase in county property tax. It also could mean the county would charge cities and towns about $150 a day for each inmate they have incarcerated in the county jail.

Paying for jail services falls into that category of death and taxes. You are not going to escape it.

So just remember this when you vote on this jail tax extension this spring.

You can pay me now, or you can pay me later.

One way or the other, you are going to pay.

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