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Prescott Residents Seek Public Safety Sales Tax

(Photo courtesy of City of Prescott via Twitter)

Prescott residents are taking matters into their own hands to help fund the police and fire departments as attrition and pension debt threaten to reduce services.

Organizers have started gathering signatures to put a sales tax on the November Ballot. If approved, it would charge 0.6 of a penny on every dollar for the next decade.

No less than 30 percent of that revenue would help supplement the city’s annual budget for police and fire departments, which have both recently lost personnel to higher-paying jobs.

Attrition doubles the city’s cost of training a new firefighter or police officer, said Barbara Anderson, chairperson of the Yes for Prescott initiative.

 “It costs a $100,000 to train an officer,” Anderson said. “If we train our officers and six months they’re gone, it's going to cost $200,000 because now we have to train somebody else.”

The tax is projected to bring in about $8 million a year, and up to 70 percent of that revenue would go toward the Prescott’s $75 million debt to the public safety pension program.

Anderson said the tax won’t pay off the entire debt, but it will cut it.

 “We’re hoping at the end of the 10 years it will be down to, I believe the figure was 15 million,” Anderson said.

To get the tax on the ballot, the group must gather about 2,288 signatures by July 7.

Matthew Casey has won Edward R. Murrow awards for hard news and sports reporting since he joined KJZZ as a senior field correspondent in 2015.