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Josephine County officials seek new funding sources for sheriff's office

Josephine County Sheriff Dave Daniel attributes the growth of cannabis farming in 2021 to increased activity by drug trade organizations in Southern Oregon.
Erik Neumann
Josephine County Sheriff Dave Daniel

With ever-dwindling revenue from federal timber sales, Josephine County is seeking a new, publicly supported funding source to pay for its sheriff’s department.

Josephine County voters have historically been tight-pursed when it comes to funding public services. Over the years, record-low property tax rates have left the county with little to spend on libraries, jails and sheriff patrols.

Sheriff Dave Daniel hosted a forum with County Commissioner Herman Baertschiger last week to gauge the community’s interest on future funding sources.

Daniel says his department already struggles to provide round-the-clock patrol coverage. Without enough staff, he says, funds allocated for special projects are going unused.

“Right now I'm on a hiring freeze," Daniel says. "I think I have eight or ten open positions, and I can’t hire. Therefore, I’m not gonna reduce our patrol services to backfill free money positions to combat illegal marijuana.”

Officials offered a slew of funding options during the forum, including a sales tax, a special tax district or a property tax levy, all of which would require a public vote.

“Any solution that we come up with to replace the sheriff’s funding has to go to the ballot,” Baertschiger says.

Various proposals from community members included a franchise fee on utility companies, using state lottery funds and even charging jail inmates for the cost of their incarcerations.

Daniel says he brought the idea of a sales tax to the Grants Pass city council, but didn't get much support.

The department was able to fund positions through a 2017 tax levy meant for county jail improvements, but that levy is set to expire this year.

Baertschiger says he expects the department to face serious financial difficulties starting next summer.

After graduating from Oregon State University, Roman came to JPR as part of the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism in 2019. He then joined Delaware Public Media as a Report For America fellow before returning to the west coast.