WILLCOX — Mayor Mike Laws, on behalf of the city of Willcox, has sent an open letter to Cochise County Supervisors Tom Crosby, Anne English and Peggy Judd regarding the proposed one-half cent sales tax to fund the construction and operations of a new county jail facility.
Cochise County voters are being asked to decide on the formation of a district for a new county jail. With it, a .5 cent sales tax increase would pay for the estimated $90 million project, and would sunset in 2047. The election is slated for May.
Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels and Jail Commander Kenny Bradshaw initially proposed the new facility with hopes of seeing a “justice center,” to be built in phases and included space for Superior Courts, county attorney office staff, probation staff, secure evidence storage and more.
By 2040 the jail could house as many as 400 inmates.
Earlier this year a 15-member Jail District Advisory Board was formed by the county to assess the need for a new facility. It met with law enforcement and jail staff, one time touring the existing jail to better understand the conditions faced due to decline over the past 40 years.
The advisory board favored the construction of the jail, citing it as a necessity and of great public interest.
“Although we are in support of the building of a new jail facility, on behalf of the cty of Willcox residents and businesses, we must oppose an increase of a .50 percent (one-half cent) sales tax to fund construction and operations of the facility,” Laws wrote. “The increase in sales tax would disproportionately impact our community and put local businesses at risk.”
The 9.1% sales tax rate in Willcox consists of a 5.6% Arizona state sales tax, 0.5% county sales tax and 3% city tax.
Laws goes on to make his case that Willcox businesses would be unable to absorb the tax, and that they already operate at a tight margin to compete with cities like Thatcher and Safford who have lower tax burdens.
“With a median income far below the federal poverty limit, residents and business owners survive by getting the best value for their dollar and understand that if they can save a percent or more on fencing, equipment, building materials and supplies the short travel time provides an affordable option,” Laws added.
The mayor said Willcox had considered increasing its sales tax to pay for community improvements but decided against it, citing the “economic hardship” on residents and businesses of the city.
He also wrote that the city sees seepage of county residents using their local resources like fire, police, transit, cemetery and roadworks and that, “50% or more of services provided and funded by the city are being utilized by Cochise County residents because the county is unable to provide adequate services over its vast area.”
“We do support improving the jail, but believe other avenues need to be pursued first,” Laws added. “Our cities along with Cochise County need to work together to find alternative funding. We hope Cochise County will consider and pursue other alternatives to paying for a new jail and involve our cities in creating partnerships and in obtaining funding. On behalf of Willcox, thank you for your time.”
Discuss the news on NABUR, a place to have local conversations The Neighborhood Alliance for Better Understanding and Respect ✔ A site just for our local community ✔ Focused on facts, not misinformation ✔ Free for everyone