New Lyon quarter-cent sales tax increase to help pay for jail expansion
By Karen Woodmansee
Appeal Staff Writer
Come July, Lyon County’s sales tax will be a quarter-cent higher and the county will step up planning an improved jail facility.
Lyon County Commissioners have approved a plan to expand and remodel the jail in Yerington, while still holding on to the option of building a new one should the county’s fortunes improve.
They also approved a way to pay for it, with a quarter-cent tax on infrastructure added to the county’s sales tax. The tax is expected to take effect in late July.
The county expects to raise $1 million per year from the tax, over 20 years, to pay for $18 million in bond issues, said Lyon County Comptroller Josh Foli. The county will add $6.2 million from the Surplus Building Maintenance Fund.
The plan has to be in place before the tax can legally be imposed, and the proceeds from the tax will be used to meet debt service requirements from new bond issues.
Officials eliminated a provision allowing for a juvenile detention complex from the plan because of budget constraints, said County Manager Dennis Stark.
He said the money will go first to a remodel and expansion of the Yerington jail and, if possible, construction of a free-standing facility in Silver Springs.
“We have certain physical conditions at the jail that are deteriorating past the point of safety,” he said. “We need additional space for more secure prisoners.”
District Attorney Bob Auer said the cost of a new complex is estimated at $37.5 million.
Stark said the jail, once expanded, will have 164 new beds, in addition to the 52 it has now, and that spending $18 million is what the county can afford.
“What were doing isn’t stopgap but it is necessary for the safety of the community and inmates of the county and it’s minimal in what we anticipate in the future,” he said. “The future could be something in Silver Springs.”
He said the jail didn’t meet federal requirements and lawsuits were a possibility.
The plan was approved 4-2, with Commissioner LeRoy Goodman opposed.
Foli said the tax increase would put the county’s sales tax at 6.75 cents, the same as Douglas County and less than Carson City, Washoe County and Storey County.
Commissioner Phyllis Hunewill emphasized that the majority of Lyon County residents made large purchases in other counties. Food items they purchase in Lyon were exempt from sales tax, she said.
There was no contention the tax wasn’t needed, but some were opposed to putting the facility anywhere but Silver Springs. Goodman and Commissioner Larry McPherson both said they fielded many calls from residents who wanted the jail in Silver Springs.
McPherson originally voted against the tax, but later changed his vote after Foli and Stark said the commission could change the plan if they chose.
Lyon County Undersheriff Joe Sanford said 75 percent to 80 percent of inmates had to be incarcerated because of the offense they were charged with, and area judges, who are aware of the county’s problem, sentence defendants to house arrest or community service as much as possible.
Again, the commission voted 4-1 to approve the tax, with Goodman dissenting.
• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-7351.