Yavapai County supervisors are making a concerted effort to relay to voters information on the proposed extension of the Yavapai County Jail District sales tax previously set for the March ballot. They may get an extension of their own endeavors.
The board of supervisors meets at 8:30 a.m. today, Jan. 12, for a Special Meeting to consider rescinding Resolution 2017-1 and cancelling the March 13 election. The second item would consider approving a May 15 mail ballot election to extend the sales tax.
The Notice of Call of Election for the March ballot was not published as required by state statutes, said County Administrator Phil Bourdon. By moving the ballot measure back about 60 days to comply with the law, the supervisors will be able to reach more people before they vote.
“We have been holding meetings with organizations across Yavapai County in an effort to educate the public on this issue,” said Board Chair Rowle Simmons, “and what we are finding is that there is some confusion and comparison to previous ballot issues.”
WHAT IS JAIL TAX?
All five supervisors want to make sure voters understand two things: the ballot measure is an extension of an existing tax set to expire in 2020 and is not a new tax, and they believe an extension is necessary for the daily operations of the Yavapai County Jail District.
The current quarter-cent sales tax was approved by almost 70 percent of county voters in 2000 for 20 years. The funds from this tax cover nearly half (48 percent) the operating expenses of the jail district. Those expenses in the $18 million operating budget include salaries and support (69 percent), services (21 percent), supplies (8 percent), and capital (2 percent).
The county has put out an informational pamphlet explaining the jail district funding and describes what people would pay as a quarter-cent tax when spending $4 on a cup of coffee: 1 cent.
It also provides a description of current programs that have cut costs and increased efficiency in the jail operations.
Vice Chair Randy Garrison said the supervisors are about one-third of the way through 70 or more scheduled meetings, and he has seen a good response in the public outreach efforts.
JAIL TAX PAC
In November, he and Simmons set up the Committee to Support Our Jail, a political action committee whose political function is for ballot measure expenditures. So far, the PAC has about $500 in contributions, all unspent to this point, Treasurer Garrison said.
Bourdon said the county is not allowed use funds to advocate for or against the ballot measure, but a political action committee can. The county paid for the brochures, which provide an explanation of the ballot measure and the jail district. “It does not advocate for or against the jail district measure. It just provides information to the public so they know what the ballot measure is about,” Bourdon said.
He added that there is no conflict of interest as Simmons and Garrison are not benefiting personally. It is similar to when two members of the City of Prescott council formed a PAC in support of the Public Safety Personnel Retirement System (PSPRS) sales tax measure (“YES on 443”).Simmons said the plan for the PAC contributions are to spend the money on promotional materials which could include newspapers, television and radio ads, website, digital marketing, and a short explanatory video. PAC finance reports for the 2017 fourth quarter are due Jan. 15.
A quarter-cent sales tax when spending $4 on a cup of coffee equals 1 cent.
State House Representatives Noel Campbell and David Stringer attended one of the meetings hosted by the League of Women Voters on Jan. 6, both indicating their support of the jail tax extension.
“This is not a partisan issue. The government has three essential things they have to do and they are public education, transportation and public safety. The jail system is part of public safety and that is why I am endorsing it,” Campbell said.
One reason Stringer supports the extension is because the sales tax “supports a vital part of public safety that we all benefit from equally and it is only fair that we all contribute equally.”
Yavapai County Registrar of Voters Laurin Custis, reminds voters that the last day to register is April 16. If the supervisors approve moving the date of the ballot request to extend the jail tax to May 15, early voting (in person at the county buildings in Prescott and Cottonwood) begins April 18. Ballots will be mailed the week of April 23, and the last day to request an early ballot by mail is May 4. The election is May 15.