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SOS Clarifies Josephine County Law Enforcement District Research – First County Public Hearing is January 18th

Ahead of the first public hearing this week on the Josephine County Law Enforcement District, SOS has provided additional research for the public to consider.

A summary of recent recommendations from the SOS subcommittee that recommended the District can be found in the following letters:

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A follow up letter sent to the Commissioners with more information and options regarding the Law Enforcement District are as follows:  SOS letter BOCC 1-10-13  and  Tax District Estimates 1-10-2013

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The original tax district letter sent by SOS to Josephine County Commissioners, December 4th, 2012 can be found HERE.

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On Friday, January 18th, 2013, at 9am, the Josephine County Commissioners will hold a Public Hearing on the Josephine County Law Enforcement District at the Anne Basker Auditorium.  The County’s agenda page for this meeting is HERE.

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The following is the text of the SOS letter turned in to the Josephine County Commissioners on January 11, 2013:

January 10, 2013

Board of County Commissioners

Dear County Commissioners,

This letter is a follow-up to the SOS recommendation of December 4, 2012, that the County begin the process of forming a Law Enforcement District (the District) and schedule the required hearings on this matter early in 2013.  In advance of your first 2013 hearing on the District, SOS would like to share additional information our members have gathered in the last month and further detail on the research behind this recommendation.

Again, the unanimous recommendation of all the SOS members in attendance for meetings on this subject is that the County form a Law Enforcement District that would provide funding for the Criminal Justice services all County residents share:  The Adult Jail, Juvenile Justice, The District Attorney, Court Services, and Animal Control.  Attached to this letter is a series of level of services options and related cost estimates gathered by SOS members with the assistance of County staff.  The Assessor’s office has verified the tax rates required for the various level of service options.  It will be the Commissioners responsibility to choose level of service and funding options that would be covered by the District’s permanent rate should this idea move forward through the public hearings process to the May 2013 ballot.  SOS felt this research would be helpful to you in the upcoming series of public meetings on this topic.

Rest assured because SOS is also working on funding ideas for services such as rural patrol that would not be covered by this specific proposal.  SOS continues to make recommendations backed by research and survey work (rather than the opinion of just a few individuals), and this is no exception.  While property taxes are the local funding method preferred at this time over other broad and locally collected revenue sources, Josephine County residents have also clearly spoken that they would prefer part of the solution to be something other than local taxes.  While the resource and service needs clearly demand that local taxes be part of the ultimate combination of solutions, we have to respect the survey results suggesting that funding the entire need through one method such as property taxes would not be popular.  SOS looks forward to additional recommendations in the near future on funding methods for rural patrol, detectives, and related support services not covered by this recommendation.

But most importantly, after working on various solutions for seven months and having so far gathered over 1000 surveys from our residents on the topic of Criminal Justice level of service and funding options, SOS can now confidently say that our residents want a higher level of service.  In fact, our survey work suggests residents want an even higher level of services than before the funding cuts that we experienced in 2012.  We can also confidently say that if local taxes are part of the combination of eventual solutions, our residents would prefer that tax be a property tax (the most common and preferred way to fund local government services in Oregon).

As you are now aware, Securing Our Safety (SOS) is a non-profit that formed in 2012 for the purposes of research and education on how to help the County provide the services that are required for a “secure, stable, and sustainable Josephine County.”  As a non-profit, SOS will continue to focus on research and education and will not take an active role in political campaigns or specific political recommendations.  However, SOS members have worked with County staff to gather facts and options for you to consider as you enter the public hearings process on the District.  While our collection of community input will remain ongoing in coming months, some very preliminary survey statistics are available on our website here:

http://securingoursafety.org/survey-results/

The SOS District recommendation involves a Law Enforcement District that would be formed for the purposes of funding for specific Criminal Justice services that everyone in the County shares no matter whether they reside in one of the cities or out in the unincorporated parts of the County.  This initial proposal had to be common services shared by all in order to take care of the “backbone” of the system first and foremost.  The ultimate result is after a vote of the County, the new district would have a property tax rate that would not be able to be changed until either residents vote to change it or Commissioners choose to levy less than the permanent authority of the new District.

The permanent rate would be set by a ballot measure in May of 2013, but under current State law could be lowered by the Commissioners in future periods without jeopardizing the ability to assess the full rate in future periods.  This would likely be a property tax rate lower than the May 2012 levy measure due to the rate covering a part of the Criminal Justice System (not the entire County system), and would help meet the definition of a “secure, stable, and sustainable Josephine County.”  County Commissioners would be responsible for the District similar to existing County Criminal Justice Services and again this District should fund the “backbone” of the Josephine County Criminal Justice services shared by all residents.

May of 2013 would be the last reasonable opportunity for this partial funding solution to contribute to the County’s Fiscal 2014 budget should voters agree with the specifics of the eventual elections measure.  Without swift action on bringing the District to voters, the potential partial funding contribution to our County’s badly needed Criminal Justice services would have to wait at least one additional fiscal year.  Securing Our Safety and the entire County thanks you for keeping options open as we approach yet another year with significant funding challenges for our Criminal Justice System.  We look forward to participating in hearings on the District, answering any questions you may have, and to sharing additional research on why it could be a core funding contribution to a series of solutions to our local Criminal Justice funding challenges.

Sincerely,

Jay Meredith, President and Board Chair

Securing Our Safety, Inc.

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