Mon, July 22

Editorial: County jail a classic case of 'You can pay me now, or you can pay me later'

The marketing department for Fram Oil Filters first coined the phrase "You can pay me now or you can pay me later."

It subsequently has become the mantra for just about every level of government that tries to convince voters the merits of their latest tax-and-spend plan.

Locally, the "pay me later" part of it is the message now being delivered by the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors. One way or another, we are going to pay for a new jail to serve the western portion of Yavapai County.

Voters narrowly rejected an increase in the county's jail-improvement sales tax in November. That defeat at the ballot box most likely had more to do with the competition from school district bond and override considerations than it did with the merits of the jail issue.

The issue of need for a new jail remains despite voter rejection of a sales tax increase in November. The aging jail in Prescott was decommissioned. It cannot be renovated. The new county jail in Camp Verde is now nearing capacity and it costs about $1 million every year to transport inmates back and forth between Camp Verde and the county courts in Prescott.

That puts the county supervisors in the uncomfortable position of being between a rock and hard place.

All of the above guarantees two things when the supervisors begin their budget process this spring. First, all other county services will feel a huge pinch as the supervisors have made it clear that construction of a Prescott jail is their No. 1 priority. Second, the rest of us should expect to see an increase in our property taxes over the next several years to finance this project.

We could have lessened that burden all the way around in November, but in the end the votes just were not there.

Now, reality sets in.

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