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8:55 AM Wed, Oct. 17th

Sheahan proposes another property tax override<BR>

The average homeowner in Mohave County would pay $19.78 more a year in property taxes over a seven-year period to support the Mohave County Sheriff's Office under a plan recommended by Sheriff Tom Sheahan.

The proposed secondary tax of 23 cents on every $100 in assessed valuation would raise more than $2 million a year for MCSO and help pay for recruiting deputies, raising salaries and replacing vehicles, he said.

Voters in May 1990 adopted an override in which property owners paid an additional 28 cents per $100 in assessed valuation over its seven-year lifespan.

Sheahan on Friday unveiled a plan to revive the sheriff's override, which raised an estimated $1.6 million a year.

He plans to urge the county supervisors, at a Feb.

4 meeting, to place the matter on a ballot for a special election May 21.

The override, which requires a simple-majority vote, would pay for filling vacancies (16 deputies as of Friday) and raising and adjusting the salaries of current employees to make their pay competitive with other agencies, Sheahan said.

The funding also would pay for replacing aging vehicles (more than half of the department's 100 vehicles have 100,000 or more miles on them), radios and equipment.

"We have become a training ground for other law enforcement agencies," Sheahan said.

Sheahan proposed a revived override in June 2001, but the proposal did not become incorporated into the $150 million annual budget adopted by the county supervisors in August.

Last January, he proposed a quarter-percent sales tax to raise an estimated $3.2 million a year for MCSO and other county operations, but the supervisors tabled action on it and it died.

He came up with the override idea in June amid fears that he would have to cut the $13 million budget of MCSO by $900,000.

And while MCSO was spared budget cuts for the current fiscal year, Sheahan said the department endured cuts as high as 12 percent in previous years.

The sheriff's office closed jails in Lake Havasu City and Mohave Valley because of a shortage of correctional officers and ended the Shock boot camp program for juvenile offenders, but kept the substation open in Golden Valley.

MCSO has an authorized strength of 94 deputies who cover a jurisdiction of 13,500 square miles.

Sheahan said he received positive feedback when he brought up the override proposal recently.

Voters approved it by 56.1 percent in 1990.

"I have been talking to people throughout the county in the past few weeks, and we have had overwhelming response," Sheahan said.

District 1 Supervisor Pete Byers said he thinks Lake Havasu City voters would back the measure despite the presence of a vocal group that launched a petition drive to repeal an existing sales tax.

"I think he can win down there," Byers said.

He added he believes a majority of the voters in Lake Havasu City will see the need for additional funding for MCSO to support the county jail, transportation of inmates and lake patrols.

District 3 Supervisor Buster Johnson, who lives in Lake Havasu, could not be reached for comment.

Johnson has blocked plans by Byers and District 2 Supervisor Tom Sockwell to increase revenues in the general fund by creating an additional quarter-percent sales tax and raising property taxes by 21.94 cents per $100 in assessed valuation.

The county's primary property tax rate is $1.75 per $100 in assessed valuation.

Sockwell deferred comment until he has a chance to talk to Sheahan early next week.

"I don't have any details on it at all," he said.

Sheahan said, "We are still working on those figures," adding he based the $19.78 figure on a home with an assessed value of $86,000.

He said he obtained the figure from the Assessor's Office.

The owner of a home valued at $100,000 would pay $23 a year under the proposed override, Assessor Bev Payne said.

The county has more than 240,000 parcels, including residential, commercial and vacant land.

Payne said it would be difficult, but not impossible, to impose the tax in the current fiscal year if voters approve the measure May 21.

The 2001-2002 fiscal year concludes June 30.