Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Where does the money to operate Yavapai County Jails come from?

Operation of a safe and secure jail is a principal obligation of county government and a key component in the criminal justice system. Click here to view an excellent video from the US Department of Justice about the role of local jails in the criminal justice system. Click here to see the obligations of the Board of Supervisors and the Sheriff to operate a jail. The traditional source of funds for jail operation (as well as other county services) comes from regular property and sales taxes imposed on county residents. These funds are commonly called the “general fund.” With voter approval, funds from jail district may be used for the operation of county jails.

What is a “Jail District”?

A jail district is a “Special Taxing District” created by the voters of that district in order to raise funds through taxes for special purposes. The purpose of a jail district is to provide a uniform method to help finance the operation of jails within a county. A jail district’s boundaries must match the county’s boundaries. Click here to see Arizona laws governing the formation and powers of a Jail District. Click here for more information about the Yavapai County Jail District.

Who is in charge of the Yavapai County Jail District?

By law the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors governs the Jail District as the Board of Directors of the District. The Yavapai County Sheriff manages the Yavapai County jail. Click here to see Arizona laws governing the administration of a Jail District. Click here for information about the Yavapai County Jail District. Click here for information about the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors.

How do Jail Districts raise funds?

Jail districts may raise funds through property tax or sales taxes. Any tax imposed by a jail district must be authorized by the voters of the district. Unlike money raised for the county's general fund, money raised by a jail district must be used for the county jail. Click here to see Arizona law governing Jail District property taxes. Click here to see Arizona law governing Jail District sales taxes.

What are the voters of Yavapai County being asked to authorize?

Voters are being asked to approve extending the existing jail district excise (sales) tax of up to ¼ of a cent per dollar ($0.0025) for an additional twenty years to fund the county jail. The estimated yearly revenue needs for the Jail District are currently a minimum of $18.1 million per year, and will likely increase over time due to population growth and inflation. The County currently contributes $7 million per year to the Jail District from the County general fund as legally required “maintenance of effort,” with most of the remaining funds raised through the existing jail district excise (sales) tax. The proposal extends the existing jail district excise (sales) tax at its current rate. 

Why is a sales tax preferable to a property tax?

Extension of the current Jail District sales tax to fund jail operation is preferable because it imposes less of a burden on county residents. According to studies conducted by Arizona State University in 2016, approximately 17% of the sales in Yavapai County are made to non-residents of the County. Continuing to use a sales tax to help fund the jail means non-residents pay for a significant portion of jail operations, relieving county residents of that burden. In contrast, a property tax is paid almost exclusively by Yavapai County residents. Thus, continuing the existing sales tax will actually save Yavapai County residents money.

Isn’t there already a Jail District Sales Tax?

Yes. The voters are being asked to extend the existing sales tax. Click here for more information on the history of the Yavapai County Jail District and here for more information about the proposed financing extension.

Who pays the Jail District Sales Tax and on what purchases?

The jail district sales tax applies to all non-grocery purchases of goods in Yavapai County. (“Grocery” purchases are generally defined as all food purchases except ready-to-eat foods – click here for more information on what a “grocery” item is). According to studies conducted in 2016 by Arizona State University, approximately 17% of sales taxes in Yavapai County are paid by visitors to the county. This means that non-residents pay a significant portion of the sales taxes within the county. Click here for more information on sales taxes in Yavapai County.

I live within a city or a town. Why do I have to pay for county jails?

Under Arizona law counties provide many services to all citizens of the county, including those that live within cities and towns. These services include criminal justice services such as prosecution of felonies (by the County Attorney), criminal felony trials (by the Superior Court), and the housing of inmates accused of crimes anywhere within the county (by the Sheriff). Before the Jail District was established, cities and towns were required to pay Yavapai County for housing prisoners charged in municipal courts. With a jail district established, cities and towns no longer have to pay to house these prisoners. Click here to view an excellent video from the US Department of Justice about the role of local jails in the criminal justice system. Since the jail district was established in 1999 the cities and towns of Yavapai County have saved an estimated 20 million dollars in prisoner housing costs. These savings are available for cities and towns to enhance services and/or reduce local taxes. Click here to see Arizona law about the cost of housing inmates.

What will happen if the proposed authorization is not approved?

If the proposed authorization is not passed the county will need to cut funds to other county services (law enforcement, courts, public health) and increase property taxes to pay the additional cost.

Why can’t we house inmates in tents as they do in some other jurisdictions? Doesn’t this save money?

Counties are mandated by law to provide safe and secure jail facilities. The use of tents to house inmates does not comply with jail operating standards, and such practices are significantly less safe and secure than regular jails. Jurisdictions that use tents to house inmates experience frequent lawsuits from US Department of Justice and/or individual inmates as a result of lax security and safety. Furthermore, use of tents does not result in savings even when lawsuit-related costs are not taken into account. Using tents to house inmates does not save money and in fact costs more money when the costs of defending and losing lawsuits are considered.

Why are inmates held in the County jail?

On average, approximately 66% of the inmates held are “pre-trial” inmates, and are held while awaiting trial. Approximately 17% of the inmates have been sentenced to incarceration in the jail and are serving that sentence. Approximately 7% of the inmates have been sentenced to prison and are awaiting transportation to the Department of Corrections to serve that sentence. The remaining 10% are being temporarily held for another agency, including fugitives from other counties and other states, and parole violators.

Voter Registration Information

SPECIAL ELECTION:
May 15, 2018
 
EARLY BALLOTS mailed by:
April 23, 2018

 Click here to register to vote today!