Warren County moves forward on new jail construction

WARREN COUNTY, OHIO – The Warren County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to move forward with the construction of a new jail.

In a release from the board, said over the last several years Warren County had already implemented all legal ways to extend the life of the existing jail by instituting so-called "double bunking" procedures and other measures.

The Board said those efforts are no longer sufficient to deal with the increasing jail population and as such, the sheriff's department, consistent with an internal policy adopted with the courts, is regularly releasing criminals early to deal with the increasing jail overcrowding.

"There is no question about the urgent need for a new jail to adequately protect our community," said Commissioner David Young. "The issue was always how to responsibly build an appropriate facility without unnecessary cost to the taxpayer or jeopardizing the fiscal health of the county with such a large-scale construction project."

"The actions taken today by our County Commissioners are an example of the importance they place on the safety and security of our community," said Warren County Sheriff Larry Sims.  "This process has certainly allowed me to gain even more appreciation for their thoughtful, conservative approach that balances the safety of our county residents and the professional jail staff with the need to protect taxpayer dollars. I believe they struck the right balance."

The recent jail study estimates the construction cost at roughly $50-$60 million.

Board members say traditional financing would require a long payback period with substantial additional costs. Commissioner's instead opted to finance the project in no more than 5-years by making a substantial cash down payment from the county's general operating funds and by temporarily raising the county's sales tax by one-quarter of 1%, bringing the county sales tax rate to 7%.

According to the Board, the temporary sales tax, which becomes effective on January 1, 2018, is restricted to pay only for the construction, equipping and or potential retrofit of the existing jail and will sunset once its debt is paid off in five years or sooner. The projected revenue from this additional tax is approximately $10 million per year.

The Board also approved a 1.5 MILL property tax reduction in the levy collected for the Warren County Board of Developmental Disabilities with the intention of maintaining the rollback through the duration of the sales tax increase used to pay for the jail financing.

"The continued good stewardship by the Warren County Board of Developmental Disabilities has made this possible," said Jones. "We are grateful for their partnership."

This property tax reduction will cut property taxes for Warren County residents by $92 on a $200,000 home and save taxpayers over $9.5 million.

"The ability to finance the jail construction in five years or less, rather than the typical 30 years, saves Warren County taxpayers upwards of $25.6 million, added Commissioner Shannon Jones. "The action today is consistent with the county's fiscally conservative approach while also fulfilling government's primary responsibility of effectively protecting the community."

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