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Josephine County forums held to address law enforcement budget shortfall

Josephine County Sheriff's Office webpage
The Josephine County Sheriff's Office is currently operating under a $1.5 million deficit.

The Josephine County Board of Commissioners is hosting three forums this week to discuss ways to prevent major cuts to law enforcement patrols.

The Josephine County Sheriff’s Office is operating with a $1.5 million deficit this year, leading to staffing reductions. Sheriff Dave Daniel said the situation will become dire next fiscal year, when that deficit is expected to reach nearly $6 million.

"Fiscal year '23 to '24 is where the rubber meets the road. And we will not have any monies to fund that. So our patrol division would in essence be gone," he said.

As a result, the Board of Commissioners is hosting three forums this week where they'll ask for input from the public about which solutions they support and how much money they are willing to spend. Potential options include a taxing district, seasonal sales tax, or levy.

The forums will be held in Cave Junction, Merlin, and Grants Pass on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday evenings. Participants can also join virtually via Zoom.

Daniel said the goal is to then put whatever option the public prefers on the ballot to be approved by voters.

"I'd like to focus on one, really narrow it down to one concept, and then begin educating on that particular concept, and then eventually getting it on a ballot in November," he said.

If no solution is found, the department will struggle next year.

"I anticipate basically the patrol division being eliminated from Josephine County, so it would be potentially no patrols at all," Daniel said. "We're at the bridge now. So we need to figure it out."

Daniel said he remains optimistic that residents will find a way to keep the cuts from happening.

"Josephine County is a very resilient county," he said. "So maybe we can come to some type of a resolve. That's really the goal. And I'm optimistic that Josephine County will unite and come up with a solution."

Jane Vaughan began her journalism career as a reporter for a community newspaper in Portland, Maine. She's been a producer at New Hampshire Public Radio and worked on WNYC's On The Media. Jane earned her Master's in Journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.