Drewel withdraws jail tax vote


Herald Writer

Snohomish County residents won’t have to vote on a sales tax increase to pay for a new county jail in 2001 after all.

County Executive Bob Drewel withdrew plans for the spring vote on a tenth-of-a-cent per dollar increase in the county’s sales tax. The tax plan would likely be raised in 2002 instead, county officials said.

The decision came after budget projections showed the county could earn more revenues than expected from the tax increase and running the jail will cost less. The jail’s opening was also pushed back from the start of 2004 to late that year.

"We still need it," county finance director Dan Clements said of the tax increase. "It’s just a question of when to do the vote."

County council chairwoman Barbara Cothern welcomed the decision.

"It just makes sense to me. In fact, I had been concerned from the beginning that maybe they had been starting too early," she said.

While the jail won’t open for several years, Clements said the executive would still seek to hold the election in 2002. Taxes collected before the opening would help alleviate the impact on the county’s general fund, he said.

The tax increase would raise roughly $8 million a year, according to estimates by the county’s finance department. Earlier, the estimate was $5.5 million a year.

Sales tax rates vary among cities. In Everett, the change would increase the sales tax from 8.3 cents per dollar to 8.4 cents per dollar, according to the finance department.

The expected cost of running the new, expanded jail has also been scaled back from $15 million to $12.5 million per year.

The new jail would house 640 inmates, with an additional 400 in the existing jail. It would be designed to relieve pressure on the county’s overcrowded jail and is expected to cost up to $85 million.

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