Common questions about the 0.3%
Law and Justice Sales Tax Increase
What will the funding be used for?
The funding is shared across all law enforcement agencies within Grant County. The County intends to build a new jail facility, while most local police departments expect to add additional officers, or use the funding for equipment and programs.
Why do we need a new jail?
A new and larger facility ensures that offenders go to jail rather than be released due to lack of space. Over 65% of the time, the jail is at maximum capacity, requiring releases of those inmates with misdemeanor offenses (theft, drug, and some gang-related offenses). Jail booking restrictions were implemented, which means most persons with misdemeanor warrants would not be booked into jail even if a law enforcement officer stopped and contacted the person. Criminals with misdemeanor warrants are walking our streets with little fear of going to jail. In 2019, the jail was on restrictions for housing misdemeanor inmates 133 of the first 204 days in 2019.
Why can’t funds be allocated from existing budget/revenue sources?
The existing jail needs to be replaced and the cost is well above existing budget and revenue allocations. Local law enforcement budgets are also limited.
What’s a real-world example of how much will the sales tax cost me?
On a standard purchase, the 0.3% is equal to 30 cents on a $100.00 purchase. As a reminder, this is a tax that would be shared not just be area residents, but by the large tourism base we have visit our communities each year (like Gorge concert goers, campers, baseball/softball tournaments, etc.)
Why a sales tax and not some other form of revenue?
A sales tax ensures that the cost is shared across the entire region, not just property owners and residents in the county. Grant County has an excellent tourism base and visitors would also support the funding process.
How much will the new jail cost?
Recent comparisons indicate the facility required to last the next generation may cost between $40 – $60 million.
Why cant the existing jail be remodeled to support the needs?
It has and we’ve already outgrown it. Over the last 20 years the facility has been remodeled, re-configured, and re-purposed to accommodate the growing inmate population. Originally designed and built for 85 beds back in the 1980’s, it’s since been reconfigured to hold 198 beds – all in the same footprint from 1980’s. Some infrastructure upgrades have been made where possible, but there is simply no more ability to properly support the staff or the inmate population within this facility, let alone keep those arrested for misdemeanor offenses housed when bed space is limited.
Where will the new jail be?
A new facility will be constructed in Ephrata on land already owned by the County. The County Commissioners and Sheriff Tom Jones agree that the Jail should remain in the County Seat of Ephrata.
What is the plan of the voters choose not to support Proposition 1?
If voters do not support Prop 1, we will continue to swirl the drain. We will continue to be constantly on restrictions and not able to hold people accountable. The number of arrest warrants will continue to rise, with increased risk to law enforcement and the public. We will continue to be forced to turn criminals loose back into the communities to re-offend because we cannot book them into jail. There will come a point in time, where, the current facility does not meet federal and state regulations for a correctional facility and there will be a huge cost to rent bed space in other jurisdictions to house our inmates.
How much money is estimated to be received by the County?
The county is estimated to receive approximately 3.3 – 3.6 Million per year. the cities will split 2.2M – 2.4M based on population.
What percent of the revenue will be devoted to new deputies?
It’s too early to speculate on that. Many other costs will need to be determined first.
What percent of the revenue will be devoted to new jail construction (bond payments, presumably)?
It’s still too early to predict percentages, however the priority now is the passage of Proposition 1.
What percent of revenue will be used for new corrections staff?
If built, we may be able to absorb personnel from the Work Release facility, therefore potentially reducing the number of new corrections staff required.
What percent of revenue will be spent on new court staffing (clerks, prosecutors, and defenders)?
It’s too early to speculate on that, many other costs will need to be determined first.
What percent of revenue will be spent on new court facilities?
It’s too early to speculate on that, many other costs will need to be determined. More information will have to be developed as it relates to the jail facility first. Consideration would be given to attaching court facilities to a new jail.
What percent of the revenue will be spent on new GCSO equipment?
Equipment costs are expected to be minimal, but it’s still too early to determine that.
What percent of revenue will be saved for reserves, grant applications, and/or other items?
The priority is to build a new jail. Voters in Benton County were upset due to the county not spending money acquired in a similar manner on what they stated they would.
How was the $40-$60 million estimate for jail construction developed?
The estimate range is derived from very rough numbers from jails that were built around the state. Skagit County built a 400 bed facility for $60.5 million, and Franklin County built a 208 bed facility for nearly $21 million. In hindsight, Franklin County concluded that they were too tight on both their project budget and their project scope.
How will the current jail be used after the new facility is built?
There are several possible options for the current facility including using it as future office space for the county, converting space to supplant existing off site storage of equipment, assets, and evidence. We’d also consider using it as a central hub for Department of Corrections where we currently turn down DOC offenders because we do not have the ability to house them.
If the primary use of the $6,000,000 per year of new revenue is for a new jail, what will the money be used for once the new jail is paid off?
The county would only expect to receive $3.3M – $3.6M/year. With a bond payment, we’d expect a 20-30 year repayment schedule, unless a shorter repayment strategy could be afforded.
GCSO has a better than 1:1 officer to population ratio; what is the need for more deputies?
GCSO does not have a 1:1 officer to population ratio. GCSO has a 1.18 Deputy per 1,000 population ratio as of 2017. 2017 standards are 4.6 deputies per 1,000 population. The City of Ephrata has a 2.00 per 1,000 population. The national average for cities under 10,000 population on the West Coast of the US is 5.7 officers per 1,000 population.
What is the desired officer-to-population ratio for Grant County?
Any increase of officer per 1,000 population would be beneficial, but we’d like to be closer to the standards than we currently are.
What is the officer-to-population ratio for our surrounding counties?
Adams County Sheriff’s Office – 2018 – 1.49 Deputies per 1000 population / 1930 sq
Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office – 2018 – 1.71 Deputies per 1000 population / 2339 sq
Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office – 2018 – 1.66 Deputies per 1000 population / 2333 sq
Grant County Sheriff’s Office – 2018 – 1.18 Deputies per 1000 population / 2791 sq
How does the current GCSO budget compare to Adams, Kittitas, and Lincoln Sheriff’s Offices?
Adams County Sheriff’s Office – Annual Budget (2019) – $1,414,854
Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office – Annual Budget (2019) – $1,703,657
Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office – Annual Budget (2018) – $8,233,324 (Patrol/Jail)
Grant County Sheriff’s Office – Annual Budget – (2019)
Patrol/Support – $8,993,713 / Jail – $6,266,449
How does the current GCSO staffing compare to Adams, Kittitas, and Lincoln Sheriff’s Offices?
ACSO – Personnel – 30 Full time staff (Including Support, Jail and Patrol)
LCSO – Personnel – 34 Full time staff (Including Support, Jail and Patrol)
KCSO – Personnel – 79 Full time staff (Including Support, Jail and Patrol)
GCSO – Personnel – 124 Full time staff (Including Support, Jail and Patrol)
How does our current jail’s capacity compare to Adams, Kittitas, and Lincoln Counties?
Adams County Sheriff’s Office – Jail size – 30 bed facility
Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office – Jail Size – 30 bed facility
Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office – Jail Size – 45 in the 80’s, 209 beds in 2012
Grant County Sheriff’s Office – Jail Size – 84 beds in 1986, 185 beds in 1997
What are the populations in those respective counties?
Adams County – 19,759 (2018)
Lincoln County – 10,740 (2018)
Kittitas County – 47,364 (2018)
Grant County – 97,331 (2018)
I have another question that’s not listed here…
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