Sheahan proposes revival of override property tax<BR>

Faced with the prospects of continuing budget cuts, Mohave County Sheriff Tom Sheahan is considering reviving the sheriff's override, a secondary property tax approved by the voters in May 1990.

The revived override could be used to help pay for raises for deputies and replacing aging vehicles, Sheahan said.

The seven-year override, passed by 56.1 percent of participating voters in 1990, raised anywhere from $1.3 to about $2 million a year and was used for adding deputies, increasing their pay, and for buying equipment and supplies.

"This has been an alternative plan," Sheahan said.

"I would not intend to use this to supplant budget monies."

Sheahan previously proposed a quarter-percent sales tax, but the county supervisors in January decided not to place the measure on the ballot and opted instead to conduct budget sessions with various departments.

To comply with a countywide mandate to slash his budget for the 2001-2002 fiscal year, Sheahan has proposed closing jails and substations in outlying areas, ending other programs and taking other cost-cutting measures.

The fiscal year starts July 1.

"It would be absolutely ridiculous to expect us to cut $900,000" in the next fiscal year, Sheahan said.

The sheriff's office has an annual budget of about $13 million, and derives $11 million to $12 million of the total from the county's general fund, which comes from property and sales taxes and other revenue sources.

Sheahan said he plans to present the override proposal at an unspecified date to the county supervisors, who can place it on the ballot with a 2-1 vote.

He will need to wait until an election in May 2002 because of a state law that mandates secondary tax measures must be on a ballot before a county's budget is prepared, county Elections Director Brad Nelson said.

Property taxes are due March 1 and on Oct.

1.

District 2 County Supervisor Tom Sockwell of Bullhead City said he needs to talk to Sheahan before deciding whether to back the override, adding he continues to favor a sales tax.

Both Sockwell and District 1 Supervisor Pete Byers support raising sales taxes to increase revenues, but District 3 Supervisor Buster Johnson of Lake Havasu City supports higher property taxes instead.

"I want to revisit the quarter-cent sales tax again," Sockwell said.

"The reason I want to do that is I still feel that the quarter-cent sales tax is a much broader tax" raised from a larger segment of the public.

Byers and Johnson could not be reached for comment regarding Sheahan's proposal.

Sheahan said he has not worked out the specifics on the proposed override, but he believes it could be a smaller tax bite than the previous tax, which was as high as 28 cents per $100 in assessed valuation.

He explained that it could be smaller because the county's population has grown from 93,497 on April 1, 1990, to 155,032 on April 1, 2000, according to the federal census.

The owner of a home valued at $90,000 paid about $20 a year under the previous override, Sheahan said.

County property owners pay a primary tax of $1.75 for $100 in assessed valuation.

After the override expired, the county has made up from the shortfall by tapping into the general fund at about $1.6 million a year, said Duc Ma, financial services director.

Sheahan is confident that the supervisors will place it on the ballot and that it will prevail at the polls.

"I would expect even better support than I had in 1990," he said.

"I have been discussing it with business people and homeowners groups, and I have had overwhelming support."