Cochise County Jail District – What is on the ballot?
Cochise County Administrator Richard Karwaczka was on First Watch to talk about the Jail District and what is on the ballot.
Karwaczka: “The ballots will be mailed out and from April 19th to May 15th, either they can fill out the form, pencil in the yes or no, and it's a yes or no question. That's the only question on the ballot, and that is for the half-cent sales tax for 25 years. So, if you're in support of that, you circle yes I want the half-cent sales tax for 25 years. If you're opposed circle no, I'm not in favor of the half-cent sales tax, and then after filling that out you can mail it back between April 19th and May 15th.
You can go to one of five locations to drop that off, and that is at the Bisbee recorders office. In Benson, it's at the county service center, and Douglas is at the service center, and Sierra Vista it's a service center at foothills. In Wilcox, it's at the service center there, and you can drop off your ballot, and this is important Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM. If you drop it before or after that time or those on Saturday or Sunday it will be locked, and you won't be able to drop it off.
Now if on May 16th, which is the day of election, you didn't mail it in, you've lost it, you can go to three locations to get a ballot replacement, and that is also at the recorder's office in Bisbee. You can go to Sierra Vista here at the foothills location or in the Wilcox service center, and any one of those you can walk in that day, they'll verify your information. They'll give you a ballot you can fill it out and turn it in on that day.
Now what's important is to people understand about the half-cent sales tax the board established jail district, but this is the funding portion of the jail district, and if it fails it all fails.
So people are asking, what about property tax versus sales tax? Well, that is a good question, and it's once we break it down, it's easy to see why the board moved forward on the sales tax. So the sales tax is expected to bring in eight and a half million dollars of revenue every year. Now to do a calculation because people are like, what does that mean to me? We took eight and a half million, divided by what we believe the population is in Cochise County, or what it was recorded as, and it turned out to be roughly $67 for the whole year per resident. Compare that to property tax. Now, if we want to recover the same amount of revenue, eight and a half million dollars, we would have to increase property tax by 31%. That would be $83 per $100,000 home. So when you compare sales tax, $67, and that's on the high side because it doesn't encompass all the people coming across from the border purchasing goods and services here. Also, it doesn't encompass anyone out of the county is simple math of eight and a half million divided what believe the residents are here $67, or put the burden on all the property taxpayers. It was very easy for the board to decide that we're going to proceed with the half-cent sales tax.
One of the big questions that we keep hearing is that the county wants this to succeed because they get a break; they don't have to pay for the jail anymore, and that is not true. We get audited every year by the county, and the Auditor General, which is not part of the County, determines what our maintenance of effort is and we pay $5.4 million currently a year for the jail. We still have to pay that going on, so that eight and a half million would be above and beyond. It won't, we don't forgive our contribution, and our $5.4 million would go up with inflation. The other thing that people are saying is, alright, well you want all this money so that you can use it for other purposes. No. That's where the Auditor General comes in again. The Auditor General, as we as I said before, we get audited every year looks at all the money and revenue that comes in and comes out, and makes sure we spent, we spend it for that specific purpose. So, if we spend it for anything else besides the jail then that's a huge, huge penalty on the County.
The other thing that I do want to mention is that the Sheriff did a great job with going up to the legislature, and Representative Griffin pushed forward, and the legislature agreed to bring $20 million to help in the construction of it. However, we have to get the funding secure the rest of the funding in order for us to get the $20 million, and we have until 2027. If the jail district passed, then we can get that $20 million; if it fails and we and we're not successful by 2027, then we lose out on that $20 million.
Watch the interview here and follow along with presentation slides included below: