Override on Tuesday's ballot seeks seven-year property tax for sheriff's office

The Mohave County Sheriff's Office won voter support in May 1990 for a seven-year property tax to raise money to pay for additional deputies and vehicles.

Sheriff Tom Sheahan is seeking voter support Tuesday for a similar property tax override, Proposition 1.

The override, if passed, would raise nearly $18 million over the seven-year period to pay for recruiting deputies and retaining them with higher pay, and for replacing aging vehicles and equipment.

The override would raise property taxes by 19 cents for $100 in assessed valuation for the first year, 18 cents for the second year and 18 to 20 cents for the remaining years, Sheahan said.

At 19 cents per $100 in assessed valuation, the owner of a home valued at $100,000 would pay $19.

The assessed value of a home is 10 percent of the home's actual value.

The measure requires a simple-majority vote and would go into effect in the 2002-2003 fiscal year starting July 1 if it prevails at the polls.

The tax rate might be subject to change, especially if building activity continues to fuel property tax revenues, Sheahan said.

When he initially presented the override proposal in January, he said the tax would be 23 cents on $100 in assessed value.

"There is certainly no lack of building going on," Sheahan said.

Assessor Bev Payne said, "That is going to depend on whether those new properties are going to be residential or commercial.

A residence is going to cause (Sheahan) more work.

It is going to increase the tax base but also increase demands for (law enforcement) service."

Commercial development generates more revenue because the assessment rate is 25 percent of the real value instead of the 10 percent for residential property, Payne said.

For instance, the owner of commercial property valued at $100,000 would pay $47.50 instead of $19 for residential when the rate is 19 cents for every $100 in assessed valuation.

The primary property tax rate is $1.75 for $100 in assessed valuation.

The county has about 240,000 parcels, Payne said.

The override measure, if passed would raise $2,072,798 for the first year, $2,080,374 in the second year, $2,235,018 in the third year, $2,428,683 in the fourth year, $2,858,292 in the fifth year, $2,996,006 in the sixth year and $3,292,511 in the final year, according to the sample ballot.

In a proposal presented to the county supervisors Feb.

4, Sheahan provided a budget for the seven years on how his office would spend override funds.

For instance, during the first year, $671,696 would go to the sheriff's office, $429,378 would be earmarked for the jail.

$53,023 would go for animal control and $37,687 would be used for the waterways program.

He also wrote at the time that he would use override funds to fill many vacant positions – 19 currently for the 94 sworn officer slots – and buy police vehicles, radios and other equipment.

The proposal calls for raising salaries during the first two years, and granting employees 3 percent annual merit raises for the five other years "contingent on a satisfactory evaluation."

The salary hikes for the first two years would be 9 percent a year for deputies, 7.5 percent for detention and animal control officers, 10 percent for 911 dispatchers and 6 percent for civilian employees.

Sheahan said he needs to raise pay for deputies to make it more competitive with nearby jurisdictions.

MCSO and most county employees have not received raises since the 1999-2000 fiscal year, which ended June 30, 2000.

Starting pay for deputies is $26,400 a year and the median salary is about $33,700, Sheahan said.

The median pay for nearby police departments is $39,000.

MCSO also invests $32,000 to $35,000 for a yearlong training program for new deputies, Sheahan said.

"When somebody leaves, we lose that investment, and that is a waste of tax dollars," he said.

Sheahan said at least 50 to 60 percent of the department's estimated 100 vehicles need to be replaced because they have 100,000 or more miles on them.