Spokane County residents overwhelmingly agreed to continue contributing an extra penny on each $10 purchase to help pay for law enforcement.
A ballot measure to extend a sales tax collected since 2004 was approved by about 61 percent of the votes tallied Tuesday night. While thousands of ballots were likely still in the mail and won’t be counted before next week, the approval margin was so large that county officials could claim victory.
“It is a relief,” said Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, who campaigned for the measure, which helps pay for some of his deputies and jailers. “I really appreciate the citizens of Spokane County for being educated on the issues.”
While there was no organized opposition to the ballot measure, which will raise an estimated $7 million a year for the next 10 years, Knezovich said he talked to individuals who opposed it. Their biggest complaint was that elected officials haven’t always done what they promised with money raised for law enforcement programs, Knezovich said. He worked to assure voters that elected officials have learned the importance of maintaining public trust.
Spokane County Board Chairman Todd Mielke said he was “extremely pleased” the measure had passed during a recession: “These are tough times for everyone.”
Voters seem to be comfortable continuing to give the county the same amount of money they’ve been giving for five years to support public safety, Mielke said. The deputies, jailers, juvenile court personnel and deputy prosecutors the money will support are “front line personnel” in protecting the public, he added.
The county had planned to ask voters to approve a bond issue for a new jail in November, but Knezovich said Tuesday those plans have changed and the bond issue won’t go to voters before next spring. Between now and then, county officials need to review the plans, “shake it out as much as possible and reduce costs,” he said.