Franklin County's proposition for a public safety tax is sure to run into an anti-tax backlash.
But the proposal deserves more than a knee-jerk reaction against all new taxes. Voters should consider the facts and the safety of their community before acting.
The run-down and outdated Franklin County jail is woefully overcrowded, typically housing twice the number of inmates it was designed to accommodate. While inmates certainly don't deserve luxury accommodations, they are entitled to humane living conditions.
It's unfortunate, but any population boom brings a corresponding increase in crime. It's no different in Franklin County.
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Sooner or later, the judicial system will have to be expanded if voters want to keep criminals off the street.
As designed, the jail is ill-equipped to keep gang rivalries from erupting. As a result, the jail now operates on a 23-hour daily lockdown. It's a logistical nightmare for jail staff.
A host of other public safety issues would also be alleviated if voters approve the tax.
Proposition No. 1 would create a sales tax increase of 0.3 percent for 30 years, if approved. About $17.8 million would be used to update the jail, courtrooms, sheriff's office and dispatch center.
Unlike a property tax, the financial burden would be shared equally by all who make taxable purchases in Franklin County, excluding vehicles and motorized farm equipment.
The proposition would set aside 0.1 percent of tax revenue for operating costs at the jail. That's forethought learned from experience. When the existing jail was built decades ago, it sat empty for a time because there was no money left to run it.
Of the remaining 0.2 sales tax, 60 percent would go to Franklin County, which would use the funds to address space and condition issues at the jail, the sheriff's office and the courts.
The remaining 40 percent of the 0.2 portion of the tax would be divided among the cities in Franklin County, based on population.
Pasco would use its portion of the tax to establish a team focused on gangs, create new municipal court space and restore a program to heavily monitor the worst juvenile offenders in hopes of getting them on the right path.
This isn't the first time Franklin County has asked its voters for this tax. A similar proposal failed by more than 600 votes two years ago.
This plan is more palatable for a couple of reasons. Construction plans have been downsized and construction costs are lower because of the recession.
Public safety is imperative for the well-being of our community and worth the extra 30 cents the tax would add to a $100 purchase. The money would help improve public safety for generations to come.
The Herald editorial board recommends Franklin County voters approve Proposition 1.