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5:26 PM Fri, Dec. 14th

Havasu man launches campaign against sheriff's tax proposal

The leader of a failed drive to move the county seat and of a separate campaign to repeal the county's sales tax has formed a committee to defeat a proposed seven-year property tax for the Mohave County Sheriff's Office.

Lenny Moschcau, who co-founded Stop Taxing Our People to repeal the quarter-cent sales tax, filed the paperwork for STOP II with the county Elections Department on Thursday morning.

Moschcau, who has lived in Lake Havasu City since 1969, also was active in a petition drive, which fizzled in 2000, to move the county seat from Kingman to the Lake Havasu City area.

While his paperwork does not state so, Moschcau said the purpose of STOP II is to defeat the property tax override on the May 21 countywide ballot.

The override requires a simple majority vote and would go into effect in the 2002-2003 fiscal year, which starts July 1.

He acknowledged part of his motivation sprang from a decision Monday by Supervisors Pete Byers of Kingman and Tom Sockwell of Bullhead City to strip Supervisor Buster Johnson of Lake Havasu City of electronic equipment valued at more than $14,000.

"It's just triggered against the playground antics" of Byers and Sockwell, Moschcau said.

"It shouldn't get personal."

Moschcau said as many as 20 people are involved with STOP II and that the group will run a "good, old strong campaign."

Sockwell said the sheriff's override has nothing to do with his decision to cut Johnson's expenses.

"It has to do with what the sheriff feels that he needs in order to maintain decent levels of services," Sockwell said.

Byers and Johnson could not be reached for comment regarding Moschcau's formal opposition to the sheriff's override.

Sheriff Tom Sheahan proposed the additional property tax to raise more than $2 million a year for MCSO and help pay for recruiting deputies, raising salaries, replacing vehicles and buying equipment such as radios.

The added property tax would be 19 cents on $100 in assessed valuation for the first year and 18 cents for the second year, but would average about 21 cents over the seven years, Sheahan has said.

Moschcau said the override is not necessary because MCSO has not faced feared budget cuts after the county supervisors adopted a budget of about $13 million for MCSO for the current fiscal year.

He added he believes MCSO could scale down plans for spending $8 million for a new building and use those savings to pay for what the override intends to raise money.

Sheahan retorted, "He's not even correct with any of the figures."

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

He said the 31,000-square-foot sheriff's office will cost about $6.9 million to build, not $8 million.

Construction is scheduled to start in May next to the jail annex on West Beale Street and take a year.

Moschcau said the state would pay for the dispatch center in the new building, but Sheahan disputed him.

"Our building is practical but not excessive, and it will meet the needs of the sheriff's office for years to come," Sheahan said.

MCSO is helping to pay for the building through a quarter-cent sales tax that the previous Board of Supervisors approved in August 1999.

The tax, which went into effect Jan.

1, 2000, is projected to raise $125.9 million over its 20-year lifespan.

However, Moschau and the late Donald Scott of Lake Havasu City launched a petition drive in February 2001 to let voters decide whether to repeal the tax, contending county officials planned to use proceeds to repair buildings in Kingman.

The county's former elections director, Brad Nelson, rejected petitions that Moschcau and his wife, Nancy, submitted July 13, 2001.

STOP filed suit Aug.

10, 2001, in Mohave County Superior Court in Lake Havasu City to force the county to call for an election.

Both the county and STOP are waiting for state Court of Appeals to hear the case.

Moschcau would not say whether he continues to favor moving the county seat, but he claims that county officials want the MCSO building at the annex site to ensure the county seat stays in Kingman.

Sheahan responded, "I don't know what he is talking about."

Kingman has been the county seat since 1887.