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Jail expansion may mean sales tax in Shasta County

Shasta County Board of Supervisors special meeting

Shasta County Supervisors are moving forward with a plan for a sales tax to fund more jail space and more law enforcement, essentially generating an extra $15 million a year to help combat crime.

Tuesday morning the Shasta County Board of Supervisors held a special meeting to discuss the expansion and operation costs for 38 new beds at the Shasta County Jail, an estimated $325,000. This is in addition to the 64 beds which funds have already been approved.

In order to pay for the additional beds, the county has proposed a sales tax. Supervisors say they will not levy a tax but are seeking voter approval to push it forward.

Shasta County residents are looking at a 1/4 to 1/2 cent sales tax increase. Shasta County Executive Officer Larry Lees said a 1/4 cent sales tax would generate $7.5 million and a 1/2 cent sales tax could bring the county $14.5 to $15 million.

If placed on the 2018 November ballot, voters would be looking at a specific tax. Supervisors agreed that there will have to be strict conditions on how the money is spent in order for voters to agree to it.

Supervisor Leonard Moty said the revenue would allow the county to move forward with double bunking in the jail, expanding current jail space and paying for future operation costs. Moty acknowledges there is a distrust in local government but that's why the board is placing the decision in the hands of voters.

"So we're listening to that and saying, 'okay, we're going to give you a very specific proposal that tells you where we're going to spend the money and we're going to lock it in stone with a vote by you the people that says okay this is where we want you to spend the money," Moty said. "Will it pass? I don't know, but it's up to the people."

He added the board spends a majority of its discretionary general fund dollars on public safety.

"Most of our money is state programs we have no control over, so we don't have that much money left over to spend on other programs," Moty said. "Public safety is it."

Shasta County Sheriff Tom Bosenko is in support of a sales tax increase. He explained in a crisis situation law enforcement is spread thin and even on a regular day there are not enough deputies to have 24-hour coverage in all areas of the county.

"We are tapped out completely," Bosenko said. "With a major incident we could have all law enforcement resources there at one time and still needing more, having to call in other officers to assist as well. Crime can visit anywhere in the county, no matter where you live or what financial ability you are. Everybody need to feel safe in their homes and their community."

The supervisors know the battle to get the tax approved could be an uphill one .

The board will gather input from cities in Shasta County before their next meeting on July 24, in order to decide whether the tax will be placed on the November ballot.

For more on the jail expansion plan, click here.

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