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Jail bonds, sales tax boost will be on ballot

Officials say issues must pass to hold line on property rates

Kootenai County commissioners approved a resolution Tuesday that spells out their request to voters to fund a $147 million expansion of the county jail and other public safety facilities.

Voters will see two items on the November ballot: a request to issue general obligation bonds to pay for the jail and a half-cent increase in the sales tax to 6.5 percent to help defray the hefty price tag for the expansion.

Both require supermajorities to pass.

Commissioner Rick Currie was the only dissenting vote and has voiced his opposition to the project because of cost. Currie said he would not sign the resolution as chairman of the board.

The concept is to issue bonds to pay for the entire $147 million project recommended in June by an Olympia consultant. The price tag is $97 million more than a similar jail expansion request floated to voters in 2005.

In Spokane, county officials also want to build a new jail but have decided against putting a tax measure on the November ballot to pay for it.

Kootenai County officials say they can expand their county jail and overhaul other public safety buildings without raising property tax bills, as long as voters approve both measures.

Half of all revenue raised from the sales tax is earmarked for property tax relief. But in this instance, property owners wouldn’t see that relief.

By law, the local-option sales tax can only go toward detention facilities. Residents’ property taxes would be raised by the exact amount of the property tax relief to pay off the remaining $37 million of the bond, which would go toward the administrative buildings that don’t qualify as detention facilities. The net effect would be no increase in the property tax rate, officials said.

“If they both get passed, then the extra sales tax will help make some of the payment on the bond,” said Dan English, county elections clerk.

The county used the same half-cent sales tax to pay for the $12 million jail expansion in 2000.

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