Colum­nist off the mark on jail fund­ing thoughts

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - Editorial Page -

Greg Har­ton’s Feb. 3 col­umn, “Other peo­ple’s money al­ways eas­ier to spend” was way off the mark.

The Arkansas Con­sti­tu­tion re­quires that Wash­ing­ton County op­er­ate a jail. There is no such con­sti­tu­tional man­date for cities.

As the cities in North­west Arkansas grow, each an­nex­a­tion re­duces the county gov­ern­ment’s abil­ity to pay for such con­sti­tu­tion­ally man­dated ser­vices. Why must the ever shrink­ing num­ber of county res­i­dents have to bear the to­tal bur­den of a county jail when the num­ber of per­sons held in the county jail are from the cities?

The pro­posal for the cities to pay a per-capita amount for ac­cess­ing the county jail ap­pears to be an in­her­ently fair pro­posal be­cause the city res­i­dents will be pay­ing a fair share of the cost of the county jail.

You can be­moan how it is a tax on city folks who did not vote on such, but those city folds did vote on it when they chose to live in a city rather than the un­in­cor­po­rated area.

I en­cour­age the Wash­ing­ton County Quo­rum Court to im­ple­ment charg­ing a per-capita amount to sup­port op­er­a­tion of the county jail. The court is al­ready strug­gling to fund con­sti­tu­tion­ally man­dated ser­vices. The county has an ever shrink­ing un­in­cor­po­rated pop­u­la­tion due to an­nex­a­tions and the 2020 cen­sus will bring a real sig­nif­i­cant re­duc­tion in fund­ing as the na­tional Cen­sus fixes the pop­u­la­tion county to be used for the fol­low­ing decade.

I urge Mr. Har­ton to re­think his po­si­tion and be­come a sup­porter of charg­ing cities a per-capita fee for jail op­er­a­tion.



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