Commentary: Vote ‘Yes’ to extend existing Yavapai County jail district sales tax
As I write, voters have already received in the mail your ballots to vote on whether to extend the existing Yavapai County jail district sales tax of 1/4 of one cent per dollar. Ballots can be mailed or dropped off at one of the Drop Boxes located throughout the county. Ballots will be counted at the end of the day on May 15, 2018. This is a very important election that will affect the well-being of Yavapai County for years to come. I urge you to vote yes.
The original tax was passed by the Yavapai County voters in 1999 by 70 percent of those voting. The tax will expire in the year 2020 if not extended by this election. Currently, the annual expenses for the operation and maintenance of the jail are $18.1 million. Approximately half of that cost ($8 million) is funded by the current jail sales tax. The County contributes another $7 million from the general fund and the rest comes from fees and other services charged by the Jail District.
Let me be clear. This vote is not for a new tax nor is it to build a new jail. The vote is simply to extend the existing ¼ of one cent per dollar sales tax for another 20 years in order to continue to pay for the maintenance and operation of our current countywide jail system. If voters do not approve its extension for another 20 years, Yavapai County government will be forced to cut other services or raise our property taxes to pay for the jail.
Yavapai County is fortunate to have a wonderful team of dedicated professionals who run an efficient jail system. We have developed programs to divert those who suffer from mental illness to treatment, instead of incarceration, and to protect the public by incarcerating those who are dangerous. We have fostered successful partnerships with our medical and behavioral health professionals to provide substance abuse treatment programs. For more information about the jail and the election, visit http://www.yavapaijail.com.
Keeping the public safe is my primary mission. Continuing our current jail sales tax will allow the county to maintain safe and efficient jail operations without raising taxes or impacting other public safety programs. Please vote yes on this Special Election.
-- Sheila Polk is currently serving her 5th four-year term as the Yavapai County Attorney has worked in the criminal justice system in Yavapai County for the last 24 years.