Jail District Sales Tax

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Introduction

An election will be held on November 8, 2022 to ask Coconino County voters whether to authorize an extension of the Jail District Sales Tax for an additional twenty-five (25) years. Please click here to view entire Publicity Pamphlet and Text of Ballot. The Spanish version starts on page 13 of the pamphlet.

Monies from the proposed tax extension will provide continued revenue for County-wide jail operations and in-jail programs and services that provide job training, life skills, mental health care, alcohol and drug abuse treatment, and adult and juvenile education. The success of in-custody programs, such as the 90-day EXODUS substance abuse program, will be supported by Pathways to Community, which interacts with local organizations to provide resources and support for individuals as they exit the jail system and transition back into their communities.

Background

In 1996, Coconino County voters approved a 3/10 of a cent Jail District Sales Tax. Monies from the tax were used to repay loans to build the new County Jail and to fund the operations of the jail. Estimated costs were $13.3 million per year. The County General Fund also provided approximately $2.2 million each year to support the operations of the jail, as required by State law. This is called the County’s Maintenance of Effort payment.

In 2006, in response to the Sheriff’s call for an in-custody drug and alcohol abuse program to help stop substance abuse crimes, protect communities, and decrease the number of people returning to jail, voters approved two ballot measures. The measures included a half a cent (1/2 a cent) Jail District Sales Tax, up 2/10 of a cent from the 1996 initiative and extended the tax levy for 20 years and initiated new in-custody drug and alcohol abuse programs while continuing to cover most of the operating costs of the jail. This tax took effect July 1, 2007 and will expire June 30, 2027.

Coconino County Jail District Comment

Since 2007, County investments of in-jail programs, including the EXODUS substance abuse program, job training skills, and education for adults and juveniles, have been successful in the following:

• transitioning individuals back to their communities
• protecting communities from crime
• and decreasing the number of those returning to jail.

Jail District Sales Tax monies have also supported critical County jail operations. This support funded by the Jail District Sales Tax has maintained County General Funds for other quality-of-life benefits, such as access to parks and recreation, health and human services, public safety and mental health
services.

The County Board of Supervisors is now seeking voter support to extend the Jail District Sales Tax for an additional twenty-five (25) years.

Coconino County’s population grew dramatically during the 1980s and 1990s – from about 75,000 people to about 117,000 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau – and the jail population reflected that increase. The old jail had reached its capacity. The County was fined because of several lawsuits that claimed injury for overcrowding in the jail. The County transferred inmates to other counties’ jails during this time to address overcrowding, which resulted in $1 million more in annual costs. Thus, the Sheriff and the Coconino County Board of Supervisors began considering the formation of a Jail District to fund the construction and operation of a new jail facility.

In 1996, a Citizens’ Task Force was formed to review jail operations and make recommendations to the Board of Supervisors. Recommendations included constructing a new jail, a 350-bed detention facility in Flagstaff, and levying a half-cent sales tax for a 15-year term. 

The Board of Supervisors placed an initiative on the ballot in 1996 to form the Jail District with a 3/10 of a cent sales tax (not the recommended half a cent) for 15 years. Proposition 400 passed narrowly in November 1996. The 3/10 cent sales tax went into effect July 1, 1997. The County continued to provide some funding through a Maintenance of Effort transfer to the Jail District and revenue also was generated through jail rental beds.

In August 2000, the new jail (the 350-bed Flagstaff Detention Center) was completed. By April 2001, a 48-bed holding facility was completed and expanded in Page. By September 2001, the addition of a 140-bed housing unit was completed in Flagstaff.

The downturn in the economy during the early 2000s, as well as rising costs, resulted in financial concerns for jail operations. The Sheriff and County Finance Department forecast budget shortfalls and began exploring options for sustaining jail operations.

In 2006, a Blue Ribbon Citizens’ Committee evaluated the Jail District financial situation and recommended increasing the Jail District Sales Tax to a half-cent sales tax, increasing the total amount levied by 2/10 of a cent. The Citizens’ Committee also extended the term of the Jail District Sales Tax to 2027, it was set to expire on June 30, 2012, and established an in-custody substance abuse treatment program.

The Board placed two initiatives on the ballot, one to increase the Jail District Sales Tax and the other to extend the term of the tax by 15 years. Coconino County voters approved both initiatives by a healthy 63% margin. 

In 2007, the County Jail established EXODUS, an in-custody substance abuse treatment program that incorporates communication, anger management, and parenting skills, among others. EXODUS program goals are to: reduce the impact of substance abuse on the community; enhance inmates’ ability to facilitate change in their lives; reduce recidivism (the return to jail) and reduce jail crowding; provide educational services to inmates to help them maintain a life of recovery from addiction and improve the transition back to the community.

The half-cent sales tax also funded enhanced services and amenities at the new County Jail, including job training, mental health treatment, adult education, special education, juvenile education, life skills, literacy lessons, along with religious, traditional, and spiritual services, as well as new spaces, such as a hogan and sweat lodge.

Since 2007, County investments of in-jail programs, including the EXODUS substance abuse program, have been successful in transitioning individuals back into their communities, protecting communities from drug-related crimes, and decreasing the number of those returning to jail. Jail District Sales Tax monies have also supported most of the critical services associated with County Jail operations, including the cost of recruiting and staffing, food, medical support, equipment, security, maintenance, and renovations. As a result, the County General Fund has been available to support quality of life services for county residents and visitors, such as access to parks and recreation, health and human services, public safety, and mental health services, rather than jail costs.

The Coconino County Jail District Board of Directors is now seeking voter support to extend the Jail District Sales Tax for an additional twenty-five (25) years, from June 30, 2027, through December 31, 2051.

Thank you for taking the time to read the information on this web page.