Now that Salt Lake County has South Salt Lake's permission to build a new jail, county residents can expect a May 23 special bond election asking them to approve a tax increase of about $3 annually on a $75,000 home.
Although neither the election date nor the proposed property tax rate increase have yet been established, officials say the date and property tax increase are safe bets.County officials admit a May 23 bond election puts them on a very tight schedule to finalize construction plans and cost estimates and sell the public on the idea of a tax increase. But they say a new jail can't wait any longer.
County commissioners don't like the idea of a May 30 election because that's the Tuesday following a long Memorial Day weekend. They also don't want to hold a special election, for which voters historically turn out in very low numbers, in June when voters may be out of town on summer vacations.
That leaves May 23 as the latest available Tuesday to hold the vote, but if county officials choose that date they won't have much time to prepare for an election or to educate the public on the issues.
Last month, county commissioners adopted, then scrapped, a plan to hold a jail bond vote next November in conjunction with 1989 municipal elections. That plan could have pushed the start of jail construction back a full year. But County Attorney David Yocom convinced commissioners jail construction needs to start this summer.
Voters are the remaining major obstacle to the 350-bed minimum security jail proposed for 40 acres near 33rd South and 12th West. A voter-approved bond issue is the least expensive way for the county to borrow the $9 million to $12 million the dormitory-style facility is estimated to cost.
But a bond issue carries with it a corresponding tax increase to repay the borrowed money, and by holding an election the county is running the risk that voters may reject the bond issue and tax hike.
It's unclear what might happen if voters turn down the