A New Levy – With a Catch

image002It’s that time of year again: another tax levy to fund justice in the county.

Three times levies have made it to the ballot since funding for our justice system was pulled, and four times they’ve been defeated. What’s different this time around?

Quite a bit, actually.

After the last levy failed to pass by a narrow margin, and as the lack of a functioning justice system has created escalating problems in the county, it became clear a new approach was needed.

That’s where Community United for Safety came in.

“Community United for Safety is a large group of Josephine County residents, businesses and organizations that have come together to place a Public Safety Measure on the May 19, 2015 ballot.”

One of the big problems with previous levies was the flurry of negative reports that often arose from lack of communication and misunderstandings about how the raised funds would be spent. Community United for Safety has been working to spread accurate information, teaming up with other local groups like Securing Our Safety .

image004The first information needed was a clear understanding of what voters in the county are willing to pay to restore sheriff’s patrols and other aspects of the broken justice system. So they raised private funds to pay for a professional polling company to reach out to voters all across the county to ask people that very question.

 

They learned that local residents are willing to support a tax rate of $1.40 per $1,000.

For the median home in Josephine County, valued at $158,625, annual property tax would increase by $222, or $18.50 per month. That’s less than twenty bucks. Not a high price to bring patrolling deputies back to county roads, increase available jail beds, and reopen the much-needed juvenile justice center.

This still leaves unanswered one of the biggest questions that arose during last year’s ballot cycle when the levy almost passed. A major reason cited for opposing the levy was a lack of trust in the county government.

Well, now we have a new sheriff, and hopefully the same voters who voted him into office will vote to support him in his job.

image006More importantly, this new levy petition includes unique language that should help ease those concerns:

“To ensure accountability, a Citizen’s Oversight Committee will be created; plus an annual independent audit, with findings made public.”

An oversight committee. What a great idea.

I believe this was the missing link, the piece we need to move forward toward a safe, secure county. We’ll get to see where the money’s spent. If it’s misused, we can immediately correct the issue and hold responsible those tasked with using it for public safety.

Who better to trust overseeing the management of our tax dollars than a group of citizens, people drawn from the ranks of our neighbors? I hope the discussion and debate of who to appoint to the committee draws people from all across the county to participate and that many nominations are suggested.

Who would you nominate?

 

image008Perhaps business leaders like Dutch Bros’ Travis Boersma? Well-respected and known to support our community, such men and women would provide essential leadership.

Or perhaps those who are active in volunteering and helping the community in ways that are often not publicly recognized, like Barb Sharp?

The committee should probably include members of the medical community, since so many of them are a part of our county. Perhaps someone like Cory Johnston?

We might look to people in the trades, or teachers in our schools.

Let’s start the discussion now and spread the word to our neighbors for suggestions.

Who would you nominate?

{Frank Morin is a local author.