WINSLOW, Ariz .— This August, voters will cast their ballot for or against Proposition 421, the creation of a jail district in Navajo County.
Approval of Prop 421 involves adding a one-third percent sales tax to purchases in the county, excluding grocery food. For example a $12 fast food meal would cost an extra 4 cents.
According to Navajo County, the benefits of having a jail district in Navajo County would be the elimination of all jail fees for Winslow, Holbrook, Show Low, Snowflake-Taylor and Pinetop-Lakeside. This would save those communities $735,000 each year. Jail fees cannot be reinstituted per statute.
Navajo County Manager Glen Kephart and Finance Director Paige Peterson stated that the county works with the Navajo and Hopi Nations and said there are benefits to this relationship. Some of these include the following:
• Navajo County assists the BIA handling issues and may have to cut next year’s sheriff’s involvement more;
• County sheriff’s on reservations assist tribal officers with difficult situations;
• The sheriff’s office actively tracks stolen objects and canvasses pawn shops;
• Navajo County has health department and judicial interactions with Native Americans;
• Navajo County representatives contact chapter houses daily to assist with pressing needs;
• There is a Navajo County Facility in Kayenta which aids Dine’ needs daily and
• Navajo County works hard to register eligible voters all over the county.
Kephart stated that the passing of Prop 421 would not only benefit the sheriff’s department, but all the reservations.
“It would allow the county to redirect monies to non-law enforcement tasks, now under-funded,” Kephart said.
With shrinking government budgets, Navajo County has reduced staff by 16 percent and has reduced its capital expenditures from $1.8 million to $500,000 in each year’s budget.
This year, Navajo County Sheriff’s Office has had to reduce staff by nine people. Public Safety is the largest cost to the general fund, so avoiding impacts to this area is impossible. Possible outcomes if Prop 421 does not pass include: the possible loss of eight patrol deputies, reduction of 13 or more corrections officers and support staff, limitation of the Sheriff’s ability to bring in revenue by housing Federal inmates and the elimination of three prosecutor positions.