Wed, Feb. 26

Editorial: County salesmanship on financing of new jail begins now

When a big-ticket item is on your personal budget horizon, the typical strategy is to figure out how to do without now in order to justify the later expense down the road.

That needs to be the strategy employed by the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors this year as they surely have a monstrous big-ticket item hanging over their heads in the form of a new jail for the Prescott area.

As for this year, early indicators are that state-shared sales tax appears will be a constant for the county, but county sales tax is down slightly. That likely means the supervisors this year need to hope rising property values will allow them to hold the line or even reduce the county’s property tax levy.

More importantly, it means everything on everyone’s county wish list is not going to happen this year, or even the next few years until the county comes up with a plan to finance construction of a new jail complex.

Talk of getting creative to fund a new jail sounds great but in the end we should all expect the supervisors to once again come to voters with a request to bump the county’s jail sales tax to fund the new jail.

That last happened in November 2014 and 52.5 percent of county voters rejected the idea. If timing is everything, the county blew it then as they proposed the jail tax hike on the same ballot with multiple school districts asking for voter support for various override and bond issues.

Now, the supervisors have the sunset clause of the original voter-approved quarter-cent sales tax staring them in the face at the same time they really need it bumped to a half-cent on the dollar. As stipulated on the original ballot, the quarter-cent jail sales tax will expire June 30, 2020.

First-term Supervisor Randy Garrison was wrong in January when he said it is not the job of the supervisors to sell the jail tax to the public. The need for the continuance of the existing tax, with an inflationary adjustment, is huge. This is not an era where voters approve tax-and-spend projects out of the goodness of their hearts. They need to be convinced of the need and they need to see evidence of sacrifice by the county to justify the need.

They need to be sold on the need by both the sheriff and the county supervisors. They need to be sold on its merits by a county board of supervisors that has laid down a consistent pattern of budgetary restraint and holding the line on property tax increases.

There is no better time to begin that job of salesmanship than now.

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