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Arapahoe County leaders left scrambling after voters reject tax hike for new jail

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ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colo. -- Leaders in Arapahoe County were left scrambling after voters rejected a proposed tax hike to pay for a new jail, something the sheriff's office says is desperately needed.

The tax increase would have helped fund a $460 million jail and mental health services center for inmates, but it was rejected by voters 67% to 33%.

The jail remains overcrowded with three times the capacity it was intended to house.

People who lobbied against the plan say there might be better ways to reduce the population and improved the current facility instead of building a bigger jail.

"Folks who are sitting there on municipal petty offenses, or folks who are literally too poor to bond out, you can release those folks on personal recognizance bonds, not cash bonds," said Juston Cooper with the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition.

County commissioners will go back to the drawing board, with one saying the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights has their hands tied. They went to taxpayers as a last resort after exploring options for years.

Over the past three years, assaults against deputies have gone up 120%. The sheriff's office said one deputy broke a femur last week in a fight.

"We know we need to make that investment," Arapahoe County commissioner Nancy Sharpe said. "There will be tough choices to be made.

"Our last choice is to go to the voters, and I think all of us really respect that and want to make sure that we’re not going to the voters unless it’s absolutely necessary."

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