SALES TAX EXTENSION: The Board of Directors of the Yavapai County Jail District asks the voters of Yavapai County for approval to extend the existing jail district excise (sales) tax of up to ¼ of a cent per dollar ($0.0025) for an additional twenty years to continue revenues necessary to support the county jail system. 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.
ARIZONA LAW: Jail Districts can be funded by a property tax levy or a sales tax levy, but not both. The District Board of Directors must submit for voter approval for authority to impose any tax on behalf of the Jail District. Authorization must be approved by a majority of the voters voting in that election.
BACKGROUND: In 1999, the citizens of Yavapai County approved the Jail District Board of Directors to levy a jail district sales tax of up to ¼ of one cent ($0.0025) for twenty (20) years, expiring on June 30, 2020. The jail district sales tax authorization was approved by 70% of those voting. Since approval, all funds collected from the tax have been used to fund the county-wide jail system.
The formation of the County Jail District and the approval of the jail district sales tax relieved the cities and towns in Yavapai County of the obligation to pay for the housing of inmates arrested by city or town police and charged in municipal court. Total savings, since 2000, for the cities and towns are estimated to be in excess of $20 million, with savings in the most recent fiscal year (FY2016/2017) of over $2.2 million.
PURPOSE OF THE JAIL DISTRICT SALES TAX: The jail district sales tax is used for operation and maintenance of the county-wide jail system. The jail district sales tax revenues are restricted by state law and may only be used for purposes as specified in A.R.S. §48-4001.
CURRENT TAX FUNDS ARE HALF OF THE JAIL SYSTEM EXPENSES: Currently, the annual expenses for operation maintenance of Yavapai County jails is $18.1 million. Approximately half of that cost ($8 million) is funded by the current ¼ cent jail district excise (sales) tax. The County’s required “maintenance of effort” contribution to the Jail District ($7 million) and from fees and other services charged by the Jail District ($1 million) fund the other half.
DURATION OF THE PROPOSED EXCISE (SALES) TAX EXTENSION: The proposed extension of the jail district excise (sales) tax would approve the levy of the tax until June 30, 2040. If approved, the tax cannot be extended beyond 2040 without the approval of the voters of Yavapai County.
ONGOING IMPROVEMENTS TO JAIL DISTRICT OPERATIONS: The Board of Supervisors, Sheriff and other county criminal justice officials have worked together to reduce the jail population, cut jail operating costs, and increase efficiency in jail operations. These include the following:
- Pre-arrest mental health diversion strategies for all Yavapai County law enforcement such as Mobile Crisis Response Teams and the formation of a Crisis Stabilization Unit developed in partnerships with mental health providers
- Early Disposition Court (EDC) to promptly resolve criminal cases and reduce the number of inmates awaiting trial
- Pre-trial release and diversion programs to expedite the release of inmates where release would not threaten the community
- Innovative prosecution and sentencing programs to reduce recidivism
- 287g programs to promptly identify and transfer illegal immigrants to Federal custody
- Privatization of jail medical services to reduce costs
- Use of less costly civilian staff and volunteers to perform routine tasks previously assigned to certified detention officers
- Inmate “co-pay” programs to partially offset costs for food and medical services provided to inmates
- A dedicated Behavioral Health Unit to facilitate the release of arrestees with mental health issues to treatment facilities and reduce recidivism
- Implementation of Veteran’s Courts to facilitate the release of veteran arrestees and reduce recidivism
- Coordinated release program linking offenders with mental health treatment providers upon release
SALES TAX VS. PROPERTY TAX TO FUND JAIL SYSTEM: The loss of the existing ¼ cent Jail District sales tax would have a major impact on the County’s General Fund. The jail still needs money to operate however, and the county would be forced to either increase property taxes or reduce services to make up for the lost revenue. Reduced services cannot help but have a damaging impact on public safety because 49% of the County’s general fund budget is used to fund law enforcement and criminal justice. Continuing the Jail District sales tax allows the jail to continue safe and efficient operations without raising taxes or impacting other public safety.
SALES TAX PAID BY VISITORS: 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.
HELP FOR CITIES AND TOWNS: Continued funding of the Jail District helps cities and towns in Yavapai County by relieving them of the burden of paying to house in the jail inmates arrested by the cities and towns for local law violations. Without the Jail District, cities and towns are responsible for those housing costs.
DEDICATED FINANCING: The current Jail District tax levy is 1/4 cent per dollar of sales. By law, these funds must be used to continue operation of the Yavapai County jail. The Board of Directors is requesting authorization now in order to insure safe and secure jail facilities are available to meet current needs.