Johnson proposes one-year sales tax

Mohave County Supervisor Buster Johnson agreed to a compromise Tuesday by proposing a quarter-percent sales tax that will be reviewed – and possibly renewed – after a year.

The one-year period would give County Manager Ron Walker, who started May 1, time to prepare a plan for running the county more efficiently, Johnson said during a workshop.

However, Johnson threw in a condition that did not muster support from supervisors Pete Byers and Tom Sockwell: conduct a cost analysis on a site proposed for the new Mohave County Sheriff's Office and possibly consider other sites for the building.

Byers, of Kingman, and Sockwell, of Bullhead City, have backed the former Kingman Armory National Guard site – located off West Beale Street near Interstate 40 – at least since January.

They interpreted his suggestion as a ploy to locate the MCSO building – as well as the proposed county complex - in Golden Valley.

While the supervisors may have made progress during a workshop that stretched beyond 2 1/2 hours, they did not reach a consensus.

Instead, Byers, the chairman, instructed staff to prepare options for the agenda for a meeting next Monday in which the supervisors are scheduled to adopt a final budget for the 2001-2002 fiscal year, which started July 1.

Also during the workshop, Johnson, of Lake Havasu City, proposed temporary housing for MCSO for one to two years in either modular or rented buildings so that deputies and other employees can vacate the dilapidated – and partially condemned – building on West Beale near Metcalfe Park.

He suggested using some revenues from the existing quarter-percent sales tax – projected to raise $125.9 million for county buildings over its 20-year lifespan – to replace aging vehicles and buy new computers.

Johnson defended his proposals after the meeting.

"There are no cuts being made," he said.

"Nobody is bringing us a new revised fee schedule."

He also denied that he is pushing Golden Valley as a site for the MCSO building.

Byers said he did not want to "dicker" with the Kingman armory site, and questioned Johnson's motives.

"He is dictating all the terms, and all the terms dictate one thing: move the sheriff's office to Golden Valley," Byers said after the session.

"We are being forced to raise the property tax.

We can get by on a sales tax.

But we can't do a sales tax without the three votes.

People are calling me everyday saying, 'We want a sales tax.'"

Byers and Sockwell supported separating the MCSO building from the plans for the overall county complex because they consider a new building urgent.

Johnson said he does not see the urgency, noting the existing building, which formerly housed a county hospital, has been condemned for 20 years.

Sheriff Tom Sheahan criticized Johnson's suggestions, and said temporary housing could cost MCSO $500,000 to $1 million.

The county has budgeted $4 million for a new building, including $1.2 million for a morgue that Sheahan believes can be put on hold.

Sheahan said the supervisors should not have brought up taxes and the MCSO buildings in the same meeting.

"All the proposal that was done today is put up another roadblock in building a sheriff's office and causing additional delays," he said.

Deputy County Attorney Richard Basinger, who prepared a 10-page agreement on raising revenues for the supervisors to consider, portrayed the meeting on a more positive note.

"I would like to compliment the Board of Supervisors on the healthy discussion," he said at the end of the meeting.

"I hope you can reach a census or compromise and move forward."