Larimer Commissioners Approve Resolution to put Jail Tax Extension on Ballot
Department: Board of County Commissioners
Release Date: Aug 19, 2014
Board of Larimer County Commissioners, 970-498-7010, BOCC@larimer.org
Linda Hoffmann, County Manager, 970-498-7004, email@example.com
FROM: Deni La Rue, Community Information Manager, (970) 498-7150, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Board of Larimer County Commissioners (BOCC) today voted 3-0 to ask voters to approve an extension of the current jail tax that sunsets on December 31, 2014. The operations portion of the current .20% tax is .15% (15-hundredths of one percent or 1 ½ cents on a $10 purchase) and the Commissioners are asking that amount to be extended for 25 years.
Larimer County has developed many criminal justice programs that cost taxpayers less than jail incarceration. These alternatives are more effective but without adequate jail funding they could be reduced because they are not mandated. Commissioner Lew Gaiter III pointed out, “We’ve got to be able to operate the jail and we’ve got to be prepared financially should another disaster hit the County. At the same time we don’t want to jeopardize the great alternative criminal justice programs we have.” Commissioner Donnelly echoed that comment, “We want to continue to keep the jail population down and address mental health as we’re doing now. Our incarceration rate is much lower than the state of Colorado’s and we can only maintain this standard if we have funding.”
Commissioner Steve Johnson also weighed in, “Through the budget over the last several years we have been able to cut about $2.5-million in advance of this sunsetting jail operation tax. However, as of January 1, 2015 we will have to take an additional $5-million out of reserves to continue to operate the jail. We could not have predicted the fires or last year’s flooding. We have already pulled over $20-million out of our reserves for fire and floods and to pull $5 million more would hurt important services citizens depend on.”
The current jail tax, $7.5 million a year, sunsets on December 31, 2014. This operational revenue represents a little under 1/3 of the total cost of operation of the jail which is approximately $24-million a year. If the tax is not extended some existing programs would be cut and funding for new programs like mental health services and the Wellness Court would be limited. Other impacts of inadequate funding would be to let offenders out of jail early and reduce our ability to respond to future disasters.
If approved by voters in November, projections show that the tax could generate enough revenue to prevent the County from using reserves to balance the 2015 budget. In future years, the dedicated funding for the jail would free up general fund revenue for other needs in criminal justice, social services, transportation or programs associated with the County’s 5-Year strategic plan. Larimer County builds reserves for large capital expenses and emergencies. Not extending the tax will result in slower recovery from future emergencies resulting in delayed road rebuilding and infrastructure repair. #####