Friday, April 5 2013, 09:42 PM CDT
County prepares for vote on levy to fund law enforcement
By Jessica De Nova/KTVL.com
GRANTS PASS, Oreg.-Josephine County is scheduled to vote on a levy in May that Commissioners said is the best solution to the financial problems faced by the County's Criminal Justice and Public Safety Systems.
Ballot Measure No. 17-49, is up for vote on May 21.
Commissioners hope to fund some law enforcement and prosecution in the County with the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Three Year Local Option Tax. "Those are the Adult Jail, Deputy Sheriff Response and Patrol, Sheriff Civil Service, that's serving papers, and the School Security and Resources Program, District Attorney, Juvenile Justice and Animal Protection," said Josephine County Commissioner, Cherryl Walker.
Some opponents said they aren't so sure that's where the money will go. "There is no guarantee that it will go to those seven items. If they had said shall or will, then it would have to go to those seven items," said We're for A Constitutional Government (W4ACG) Co-founder, Jim Rafferty.
Rafferty said the word "may" in the ballot summary allows Commissioners to use the money however they like. "'May' means that the money is gonna go to the County through the general, the County's already admitted that, the County funds are just funds that go to the general fund and they will disperse it anyway they like," said Rafferty.
Commissioner Walker said 'may' is a permissive word. "If we do not receive a grant to fund this program, for example the School Security Program, that would allow us the opportunity to put that money into more jail beds or more patrols rather than saying we can't use that money at all," said Walker.
If passed, the tax will be $1.48 per $1,000 of a property's assessed value. "If it is increased by the assessed value, then that could actually increase the dollar amount that would be collected, but it would not increase the $1.48. The $1.48 will not change," said Walker.
Rafferty said W4ACG doesn't want a new tax, period. "So what do the Commissioners think no means? They need to come up with a solution that is a non-taxable solution," said Rafferty.
Both sides agreed the County needs law enforcement.
Walker said though residents may have dogs, alarms and guns, something needs to be done with the criminals. "If you have those and someone is caught, where do you take them? Who's gonna prosecute them? Who's gonna protect people from future crimes from that individual," said Walker.
"We're not opposed to law enforcement, in fact, we want to help law enforcement," said Rafferty.
Commissioners said a temporary levy is the key, but Rafferty suggested other options like renting out County Jail cells to the city and donations. "Donation is something that I give willingly. A tax is something that I am forced to give or lose my property," said Rafferty.
The Board of Commissioners will hold a presentation on Measure 17-49, April 10, following its weekly business session in the Anne Basker Auditorium located at 604 NW 6th Street. The presentation will be broadcast on the County's cable channel and will also be available on the County's website for viewers unable to attend or watch live.
Rafferty said W4ACG and other groups opposing the levy hope to organize a public debate on the measure.