It’s nearly impossible to talk about public safety in Josephine County without mentioning timber. For decades, our public safety services were funded largely by timber receipts from the sale of timber on federally owned land. Now that those federal dollars have mostly dried up, Josephine County has scraped by on federal Secure Rural Schools payments meant to temporarily replace those lost revenues until our county can stand on its own.
Each year, our public safety officials spend a nail-biting few months waiting to hear whether the county will receive another federal payment through the Secure Rural Schools Act. The most recent SRS payment to Josephine County was for nearly $4.9 million. No SRS funding has been authorized for the coming fiscal year.
On Thursday, Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley urged the Senate to pass legislation reauthorizing SRS. But the senators said Congressional leaders blocked their efforts, arguing that more effective timber management could replace the lost revenue. According to Wyden and Merkley, logging on public lands would have to increase by 400 percent to match what counties have been receiving in SRS payments.
Unless there is a last-minute shift by the Senate, the SRS payments that Josephine County received last spring will be our last.
With the failure of the public safety levy on Nov. 8, this leaves us with few options for funding law enforcement in our county.
Securing Our Safety (SOS) is working to get the community more involved in conversations about our county’s future. Please join SOS for our next meeting this Tuesday at 5:15 p.m. at the Newman United Methodist Church at Sixth and B streets in Grants Pass.
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