The Measure S Story

This measure was defeated – 8,130 votes No to 8,081 votes Yes! Unfortunately, the sheriff and supervisors completely disrespected this vote, and put Measure G on the November 2016 ballot asking us to vote again; unfortunately, this background information is still relevant to the unchanged project – click here for more information on the new ballot measure.

No one likes crime. Still, we expect our elected officials to spend our hard earned tax dollars wisely. Going through the Siskiyou Daily News archives and other sources for the past few years tells a story of financial mismanagement, and extraordinary efforts to build the new jail, no matter what it costs, with little or no concern for state trends, the taxpayers’ dollars and or the cost of running it.

In June 2016, Measure S proposes to use the sales tax – which falls disproportionately on working people – as a way to pay off high interest loans (there seems to be some problem with the credit rating) by leveraging existing assets using “non-traditional debt”. That’s not smart business, particularly when the numbers keep changing. We’re not hearing anything about the millions they are still short for construction even after the tax increase, not to mention how they’ll pay for staffing and operating costs.

You don’t need an accounting degree to see the numbers don’t add up for Measure S. For 2015-16 Siskiyou County only has a $114 million approved budget (see page 10 here) so construction costs of the jail are a massive hit on county finances.

Here’s the story, with quotes that speak for themselves:

California Prison Population.svg
By Grendelkhan - Own work, CC0,

History – Prison Overcrowding

Wikipedia: “From 1982 to 2000, California’s prison population increased 500%. To accommodate this population growth, the state of California built 23 new prisons at a cost of 280 million to 350 million dollars apiece.”

Public Policy Institute: “California’s prison population has been on the decline for several years, since a 2006 peak of 163,000 inmates. In 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered California to reduce its prison population to 137.5% of institutional design capacity. A mixture of reforms, inmate transfers, and new construction brought the population below the mandated threshold. As of March 2015, it stood at 112,300, or 135.8% of capacity.”

Californians for Safety and Justice: “In April 2011, Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 109, one of the most significant changes to California corrections in decades. Public Safety Realignment shifted responsibility for people convicted of certain non-serious, nonviolent or non-sex felony offenses from state prisons and parole to county jail and probation…In 2011, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s ruling in Brown v. Plata that California’s prisons were so overcrowded that the provision of medical and mental health care was inadequate to the point of being unconstitutional.”

Siskiyou County Population and Economy

Google Public Data: In 1988 Siskiyou County’s population was 42,026. It peaked at 45,030 in July 1997, then eventually declined to 43,628 in 2014 – a net gain of less than 4% for the period.

Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office: “The current Jail was opened in 1988 with a 68 bed capacity  This has since been expanded to 104 beds.  Our daily average population is approximately 98 inmates.   We hold pre-trial felons and sentenced misdemeanor and felony violators.  We are a totally self-contained facility with on-site food and medical services.

There are 38 individuals employed at the jail in either a civilian or sworn capacity.  The jail is overseen by Jail Commander, Lt. Jeff Huston.”

Note: The first jail expansion thus increased its capacity by almost 53%.

Wikipedia: Siskiyou County ranks 55th of California’s 58 counties in median household income at $37,865 (39% below the California median of $61,632).

California State Board of Equalization: The statewide sales tax began in 1933 at 2.5% and grew rapidly starting in the 1970s to its current level of 7.5%. Counties, cities and districts can add to this rate.

Investopedia: Sales taxes that apply to essentials are generally considered to be regressive as well because expenses for food, clothing and shelter tend to make up a higher percentage of a lower income consumer’s overall budget. In this case, even though the tax may be uniform (such as 7% sales tax), lower income consumers are more affected by it because they are less able to afford it.”

The Road to the Ballot

From the Siskiyou Daily News:

10/6/11 – “It’s a myth that under AB 109 all these criminals would be released from prison and transported to the county,” Siskiyou County Probation Department Chief Probation Officer Todd Heie said. “The biggest impact the Sheriff’s Department is going to see is people who can no longer go to the state prisons…

“For Siskiyou County, what that primarily means is the people convicted of things like possession of methamphetamine can no longer go to state prison. That’s the majority of what we’re talking about in Siskiyou County,” Heie said. “Drug possession cases are typically what we send to state prison more than anything else.

“According to the sheriff, about 80 percent of the people in jail are awaiting trial, not serving time. That’s a main problem that needs to be addressed,” Heie said.

“It is estimated that those who can’t be kept out of the jail with alternative programs that might typically be sent to state prisons would add about 34 people to the jail at full implementation.”

5/13/13 – “On Tuesday, the Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors voted to spend $350,000 to purchase 26 acres for the site of a new county jail. The vote followed nearly an hour-long discussion during which the board expressed strong reservations about the county’s ability to finance its share of the massive project.”

7/19/13 – “To contend with this influx of inmates, the sheriff’s department has been planning to build a larger jail facility. Yet, even with the additional bed space, sheriff Jon Lopey explained it won’t be enough.

“We can’t afford to put everyone in jail and throw away the key,” he said.

“Just putting people in jail has not worked, so we need to do something different,” said corrections officer Allison Giannini, the program coordinator.

2/14/14 – “The costs of staffing the jail are also expected to be high, according to the fiscal analysis. The document identifies an estimate of $735,000 in additional staffing for the new jail, bringing the total estimated cost just for staffing at $3,533,673 per year.

“Without identifying new sources of revenue to cover the costs, Armstrong said, “I think we’re living in a dream world.”

2/20/14 – “It was revealed in January that an audit of a Community Oriented Policing Services grant awarded to the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office in 2009 had turned up inconsistencies in the data used in the grant application and in the accounting of employee time cards.”

3/20/14 – “The Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors agreed Tuesday to a three-year payback of $615,156 for a sheriff’s office grant that failed to pass muster after a 2013 audit…

“According to the DOJ, the audit revealed that the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office had provided crime data in its grant application that were not supported by available evidence. The DOJ states that the county likely would not have received the grant at all if the correct data had been used.”

8/13/14 – “The county has received a $24 million grant from the state of California as part of the state’s effort to fund the transition of jurisdiction for certain classes of inmates from prisons to county jails…Adding in the cost of a five percent construction contingency and the estimates for soft costs, Fadness said that the county is looking at a funding gap of $7,504,886 for construction.

“Currently, the jail operates with 31.5 full-time equivalent employees, and shift relief is achieved through overtime work among the employees. Fadness said that the low end estimate for necessary employees to run the new jail would be around 39.5 full-time equivalent employees, resulting in an increased annual cost of approximately $588,000.”

9/8/14 ( – “Despite its rural location and sparse population, the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Department felt the need to beef up its arsenal. It received 32 assault rifles, one grenade launcher and a mine-resistant vehicle through the Pentagon program. But Siskiyou County was suspended from the program on Jan. 31, 2013 after it failed to locate one of its M14 assault rifles on loan.”

1/30/15 (Siskiyou Daily News) – “The plans for a new jail in Siskiyou County continue to change as the architectural firm in charge of the process searches for new ways to bring the project costs within reach of available funds.

“Representatives from the firm Nacht & Lewis visited Siskiyou County Thursday to provide the county board of supervisors with an update on the new jail project, which previously had been estimated to cost $7.1 million more than the county was allotted in a state grant.

“That estimated shortfall has since been whittled down to $3,698,093, according to Eric Fadness of Nacht & Lewis, thanks in part to various changes in the proposed design.

2/3/15 – Siskiyou Crime Report – over 4250 crimes booked in 2014:

  • 601 Violation of probation
  • 565 Failure to appear
  • 358 Disorderly conduct
  • 246 DUI
  • 200 Possession of a controlled substance
  • 181 Possession of drug paraphernalia
  • 48 Possession of marijuana for sale
  • 24 Sales of marijuana
  • 20 Possession of marijuana
  • 55 Battery on a spouse
  • 118 Inflicting corporal injury on a spouse
  • 40 Cruelty to a child
  • 40 Assault with a deadly weapon
  • 28 Other assault
  • 7 Attempted murder
  • 2 Murder
  • 90 Burglaries
  • 57 Petty theft
  • 7 Embezzlement
  • 3 Rape
  • 4 Sex with a minor
  • 1 Prostitution
  • 1 Sexual penetration by force
  • 1 Incest
  • 1 Penetration with a foreign object
  • 4 Lewd & lascivious on a child
  • 2 Oral copulation on a child

3/12/15 – “Herrick started off with the bad news, telling the board that the delay in the decision is expected to add $400,000 in construction cost escalation, and Nacht & Lewis estimates an increase in $500,000 to the project due to the complexity of the project.

“She then moved on to four options identified by county staff for the board to consider. The first would be to try to fund the jail only with state grant funds, building in a kitchen and infirmary. That option, she said, would leave the county with a $9.4 million shortfall.

“Excluding the infirmary but including the kitchen would leave a $5.7 million shortfall, according to Herrick, and leaving out both additions would leave the county short $2.4 million.

“She added that county staff does not recommend building an incomplete facility, so a fourth option is the recommended path forward.

“That option would see the county building only the jail with current funding source and competing for a separate grant under Senate Bill 863 to build the kitchen and infirmary. The county would still be $1.7 million short, Herrick said, adding that county staff were seeking direction to pursue both the additional grant and sources of funding to cover the remaining gap.

“Those sources include the sale of excess county property, funds from power generation from the county-owned Box Canyon Dam and other sources, including a possible loan from the state. According to Herrick, the loan is not a guaranteed option because the financing bank has expressed concern about the county’s ability to repay due to a lack of healthy reserves.

“In addition, the county must still identify a way to pay for increased operating costs from adding staff to cover the new jail. So far, the estimated increase in staffing costs is over $220,000, she said.”

11/4/15 – “The Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors aired concerns and frustration on Tuesday when it took up the issue of a stolen fuel card that cost the county approximately $40,000…

“The suspicious activity led to an investigation by the SCSO, which uncovered that the card – allegedly stolen by an inmate while the vehicle in which the card was stored was in the county yard – had been used between June 16 of last year and Aug. 15 of this year to rack up the charges.

“According to County Administrative Officer Terry Barber, the investigation also uncovered inadequate systems to detect theft and fraud, not only within SCSO, but possibly in other departments as well.”

11/11/15 – “The board met at its regular meeting on Tuesday to discuss the future of the project in light of a recent announcement that the county was turned down for additional funding under California’s Senate Bill 863.

“The county had applied for $16,835,000 under SB 863 with the hope that it could augment the approximately $27 million it was awarded for the construction of a new jail through California Assembly Bill 900…

“Without any other funding sources, the county would be looking at a $5,762,518 gap between its available funds and the estimated cost of building the jail with a kitchen, and a $9,378,351 gap if it wanted a kitchen and infirmary, according to Barber…

“Exploring potential funding sources to cover the gap, Barber said that the combined funding sources – from the county’s geothermal fund, the insurance payment from the theft of the county’s gold and other sources – totals only $3,033,000 if the county completely depletes them all.

“Auditor-Controller Jennie Ebejer gave the board an overview of its potential funding options, narrowing the discussion to the option she believes would present the greatest chance of success – Certificates of Participation.

“A form of lease revenue bond, the payment is tied to an annual appropriation and is therefore not viewed as traditional debt, she explained.

“The COP option would come with costs right at the outset, according to Ebejer, who said that the process would require the county to obtain a credit rating at a cost of $25,000, and it would take four to six weeks to complete.

“The COP would require that the county use as collateral a county owned facility, and that it provide a team composed of an underwriter, bond counsel and financial advisor.

“If the county were to qualify for a $6 million COP at 6 percent annual interest, its estimated annual payment over a 20 year period would be $515,000 to $550,000, and over a 30 year period, $430,000 to $475,000, Ebejer said.

1/6/16 – “…With construction costs generally increasing over time, she added that the true funding gaps would likely rise to $7.5 million and $10 million, respectively.

District 2 Supervisor Ed Valenzuela said that, given the numerous other issues that could crop up with an off site kitchen, he wanted to proceed with the kitchen on site. The rest of the supervisors ultimately stated their agreement, and the board directed staff to formulate the project description with the kitchen on site, bringing the current total cost estimate to $37,774,000.

Barber said that the county will now be able to explore various financing options for the $10 million overage, and the board was next tasked with deciding how it would generate enough revenue to pay back a $10 million loan.

Such a loan, she said, would require annual payments over $600,000, depending on the interest rate and the length of the loan repayment.

As an example, she said that a 30 year loan with 5.5 percent interest would likely cost the county $681,000 per year, while a 20 year loan at the same rate would likely cost $825,000 per year.

Barber noted that loans at 4.5 percent interest would have somewhat lower payments, but she said that she does not believe the county would be able to qualify for that interest rate at this point.

The board in December looked at various options for creating enough revenue for the repayment, with two potential options brought back on Tuesday – a general tax measure and a special tax measure.

Barber said that, based on the county’s current sales tax revenue, a .25 percent tax increase would likely bring in $200,000 annually, while a .5 percent increase would likely bring in $400,000 annually.

5/6/16 – “The figures that were presented are subject to numerous variables, but Ebejer’s office estimated approximately $1.5-1.9 million could be generated annually if Measure S ­– which would institute a county-wide half cent sales tax – goes forward.

“Ebejer and Zediker detailed two primary avenues for obtaining revenue for the new jail: an IBank loan and a Certificate of Participation bond.

“IBank is the California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank; the bank has a loan program which “provides financing to public agencies and non-profit corporations for a wide variety of infrastructure and economic development projects…

“The Certificate of Participation, which provides financing through the purchase of a share of lease revenues, requires collateral, “specifically unencumbered buildings” with value equal to the $10 million being financed and “with a remaining useful life at least equal to the terms of the Cops.”

And What Will It Really Cost?

Massive jail expansion now, when the trend is away from mass incarceration, could leave Siskiyou County with a “white elephant” whose care and feeding continues indefinitely, no matter what. Changes in the law such as Proposition 47 (passed in 2014), the likely legalization of marijuana in 2016 and other measures could significantly reduce the need for expansion.

Ballotpedia: “Following Proposition 47’s approval in November 2014, inmate populations in prisons began to fall across California…U.S. Sen. and 2016 presidential candidate Rand Paul (R) praised Proposition 47 in June 2015. He said, ‘California’s actually done some good things. Proposition 47 about a year ago or six months ago took some of the minor drug felonies and made them misdemeanors and, from my understanding, you have more room in your prisons now for violent criminals. They’re not getting out early.'”

ReformCA – “ReformCA is leading the way to legalization. We’ve built a grassroots movement with 70,000 supporters of legalization from across the state. We’re also partnering with state and national organizations to build consensus around policy considerations for legalization, while consulting with state leaders in Sacramento and getting their feedback. Furthermore, we’ve assembled a formidable political and polling team to lay the foundation for an eventual campaign.”

Ballotpedia: A poll asking respondents the following question was conducted in February 2016:

On the November 2016 ballot you may see an initiative that would legalize marijuana for recreational use under California law and allow government to tax it, likely bringing in millions in new revenues for government programs. If the election was held today, would you vote Yes to approve or No to reject this initiative?[5]
[hide]California Recreational Marijuana Legalization
Poll Yes No Unsure/No response Margin of Error Sample Size
Probolsky Research
February 11 – February 14, 2016
59.9% 36.7% 3.4% +/-3.1 1,000
Note: The polls above may not reflect all polls that have been conducted in this race. Those displayed are a sampling chosen by Ballotpedia staff. If you would like to nominate another poll for inclusion in the table, send an email