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Thu, March 21

Could jail tax question come back to voters again?

Wondering where they will come up with approximately $7 million for a new jail to house underaged criminals, Yavapai County supervisors talked recently about the possibility of using revenues from the existing county jail district sales tax.

Director of Juvenile Court Services Gordon Glau asked the supervisors if they would consider that option.

But voters would have to approve that use, since the original 1999 ballot question didn't say the money could go toward a juvenile facility, Board of Supervisors Attorney Dave Hunt said.

The current 20-year jail district sales tax is an eighth of a cent, and the county plans to increase it to a quarter-cent after 10 years. State law allows it to be as much as a quarter-cent.

Voters originally approved the jail district so the county could build a $16.6 million addition to the county jail for adults in Camp Verde.

It currently is under construction. It will add 240 new cells for 430 adult males, plus create 14 cells to accommodate 28 juveniles being charged with adult crimes so the county can stop sending such juveniles to the Maricopa County jail.

One reason the county is building the Camp Verde addition is to appease the U.S. Department of Justice, which cited several deficiencies with the county adult jail system. County officials have since corrected most of them.

County Supervisor Gheral Brownlow wondered out loud Tuesday if the Department of Justice will come after the county again because the juvenile jail is now overcrowded.

Glau said he doesn't think that will happen, but he noted that state officials have warned the county's juvenile justice system that it is out of compliance with a law requiring at least one juvenile detention officer for every 20 juveniles during sleeping hours.

He is asking county supervisors to appropriate $32,891 in next year's budget to hire the facility's first new officer in two years, because right now the detention facility has only two night officers.

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