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Oregon Timber Counties Reject Tax Increases to Fund Public Safety and Jails

Voters in three Oregon counties have rejected property tax increases to fund public safety and jails. The levies in Curry, Polk, and Columbia counties would have made up for cuts to federal timber aid.

Voters in Curry County on Oregon’s south coast soundly defeated their safety levy.

That leaves the county 2 million dollars short of funding next year for the jail and six deputies. Commissioner David Itzen says the county may try one last time to pass a safety levy next May.

“We’re definitely looking at the end of the road financially, unless something is approved by the voters. Or, we end up having to implement house bill 34-53. “

That bill allows the governor to declare a safety emergency in troubled counties and impose an income tax surcharge on the residents to help fund basic services.

Local officials say a safety levy also failed in Polk County. And election staff in Columbia County say voters rejected a tax measure that would have increased staffing at the county jail to avoid the early release of prisoners.

Copyright 2013 KLCC

Amelia Templeton is a multimedia reporter and producer for Oregon Public Broadcasting, covering Portland city hall, justice and local news. She was previously a reporter for EarthFix, an award-winning public media project covering the environment in the Northwest.