The quarter-cent sales tax that provides 48 percent of the operating revenue for the Yavapai County Jail District is set to expire in 2020. In its Oct. 4 meeting, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to place an extension of the existing tax on the March ballot for county residents to decide.
All supervisors expressed support in continuing the tax that voters approved in 2000.
The county established the jail district in 1999, which relieved cities and towns of charges for inmates, said County Administrator Phil Bourdon.
The $18.1 million jail district budget receives nearly half its revenue from the sales tax (48 percent), 43 percent from the general fund, 5 percent miscellaneous (includes grants), and anything left over that goes into the fund balance (4 percent).
Supervisor Craig Brown said, for his district that covers Chino Valley, Williamson Valley and parts of Prescott, not continuing the sales tax would have a “devastating effect on the budget.”
The tax came about because of overcrowded conditions in the county jail in the late 1990s that triggered a Department of Justice investigation. The sales tax helped pay for an expansion of the Camp Verde jail from 120 beds to 600 beds, which closed the investigation.
“I support the need for public safety in Yavapai County,” said Yavapai County Sheriff Scott Mascher. “I would like to see you all make a decision.”
Brown pointed out that should the sales tax end, the $9 million it supplies annually to the jail district would have to come from somewhere else, and if taken from the budget’s reserves, those would be depleted in a few years.
“We’re working as smart as possible, but it won’t make up the $9 million. There’s no doubt in my mind the quarter-cent tax has to be renewed,” he said.
Bourdon said the matter could come before the voters in a ballot-only election in March or May, or in the August primary or November general election. Because the board goes into budget talks in May, board members decided a March election would be most advantageous.
The process begins Nov. 13 with approval of a resolution setting the ballot measure and language. Draft arguments for and against the measure are due Dec. 15. The publication pamphlet will be mailed out Feb. 11, 2018, with ballots mailed the following week.
The election takes place March 13.
If voters approve the 20-year extension of the existing sales tax, it would end in March 2040.