SHELTON — Dollars generated by a 3/10ths of 1 percent sales tax proposed to voters on Aug. 6 would be solely dedicated to the benefit of Mason County’s public safety system.
Shelton police Chief Darrin Moody, who joined county Sheriff Casey Salisbury and jail Chief Kevin Hansen Tuesday on the iFIBER One News Radio KMAS’ Daybreak show, made it clear that the proposal is for a sales tax. He said the City of Shelton already has a 1/10th of 1 percent public safety tax and the ballot measure would take it to 3/10ths of 1 percent of every dollar that residents and visitors spend in the county.
The public safety tax proposal would generate about $1.3 million a year specifically for criminal justice programs operated by the sheriff’s office and the county courts. It will fund some expansion of services and abilities within the jail system and court system.
“This if for the court system that is burdened and overloaded,” Moody told Daybreak show host Jeff Slakey. “This is for the public defenders. This is for the prosecuting attorneys. This is for the alternative sentencing. It has a little bit of everything and the county’s done a good job of spelling out what the money’s going to go for.”
Salisbury said if voters approve the sales tax increases it will be dedicated solely to public safety.
“You can take any one part of our system,” the sheriff said. “You can give us all the law officers you want, but if you don’t have any place to put them in jail or we don’t have the court system to process them or the people in the court system, it doesn’t help anything.”
County jail Chief Kevin Hanson said in May there were 319 arrests that were not booked in the jail because it was full. Hansen said once a judge tells the sheriff’s office that an person arrested has to be incarcerated then room has to be made for that person.
Currently the Mason County Jail can hold no more than 94 inmates leading the Sheriff’s staff to almost daily release an offender early in order to make room for a new arrest. Sheriff Salisbury says in the month of May there were 309 new arrests in Mason County with no room at the jail to put the offender.
If the added criminal justice sales tax increase is approved by voters the Mason County sales tax would go from 8.5 to 8.8 percent. The retail sales tax in Thurston County is currently at 9.3 percent, by comparison.
Of the $1.3 million generated by the sales tax, $450,000 would go to fund six new correction deputies.
Two of them will take care of transportation staff and other four to go to fill positions laid off form the jail staff in the past, Shutty said.
Money would also goes toward inmate mental health care for inmates.
A proposal to replace Mason County’s existing jail is being considered in a separate bond proposal. The county commissioners have hired a consultant firm to come up with proposals to replace the jail, including a regional facility shared with Grays Harbor County.