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7:01 AM Sat, Dec. 15th

Sheahan: Proposed override will cost less than he initially thought

The proposed property tax for the Mohave County Sheriff's Office would cost landowners less than initial projections, according to the proposal released Tuesday by Sheriff Tom Sheahan.

Sheahan said he has revised the projections because he determined the proposed property tax override would cost "quite a bit less" after he discussed it with Assessor Bev Payne.

He plans to urge the supervisors on Monday to place the proposal on the countywide ballot May 21.

Payne said Sheahan based his first figure on guestimates.

"When he turned that around and redid the budget and then worked backwards, he found (the tax) rate that would satisfy his minimum needs, and it was a reduced rate," Payne said.

Sheahan's new estimate is 19 cents per $100 in assessed valuation, down from 23 cents.

He projected the owner of a home with an assessed value of $86,000 – the average in the county – would pay $16.34 per year, or $1.36 per month.

That is down from his initial estimate of $19.78 per year, or $1.65 per month.

The proposal projects revenues exceeding $2 million for MCSO in the first two years of the seven-year tax and rising to nearly $3.3 million during the final year.

Sheahan said he wants to revive the override to raise money to pay for filling vacancies for deputies, raising pay to make wages competitive with other agencies, and providing funding for vehicles, radios and equipment.

If approved by the voters, the secondary property tax would go into effect when the 2002-2003 fiscal year starts on July 1.

Voters in May 1990 approved a seven-year override that raised property taxes by about 28 cents on every $100 in assessed valuation.

Sheahan has said he thinks the override will prevail at the polls, noting it drew support from 56.1 percent of the voters.

However, he may not count on the support from Stop Taxing Our People, a Lake Havasu City-based organization that launched a petition drive last February to repeal an existing quarter-cent sales tax.

"The override, we think, is ridiculous," STOP founder and chairman Lenny Moschcau said.

He said that he probably would fight the proposed override if it appears on the ballot.

Moschcau said the tax burden for supporting MCSO should fall on the incorporated areas, not cities.

"Let Butler pay for the override," he said.

Anticipating such opposition, Sheahan said, "People in the cities might say, 'How would I benefit?' First of all, there are 13,500 square miles in the county, and out of that only 127 square miles are in the city limits.

The sheriff's office is responsible for their safety."

He stated in the proposal, "This community protection override will give the Sheriff's Office the ability to keep up with the growth and keep a strong crime-deterring presence in Mohave County"

Sheahan has stressed that the override would pay for recruiting and retaining deputies and other employees by offering them more competitive wages.

The sheriff's office has 237 full-time-equivalent employees.

His proposal calls for phasing in raises over the first two years, and employees would be eligible for 3 percent merit increases each year afterward if they receive satisfactory evaluations.

The pay for deputies ranges from $13.46 to $19.02 an hour, Sheahan said.

The proposal details projected spending for the MCSO, jail, animal control, the anti-drug DARE program, flights, waterways and school resource officers.

Copies of the proposal are available at the Board of Supervisors' office in the Johnson building at 809 E.

Beale St.