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Josephine County approves November ballot measure to fund law enforcement

Erik Neumann / JPR
Josephine County Sheriff Dave Daniel says he wants the sheriff's office to be able to "do what we took an oath to do."

On Wednesday morning, the Josephine County Board of Commissioners approved a ballot measure that would increase funding for law enforcement in the county.

The proposed service district would receive funding from a permanent tax rate limit of 99 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. If approved by voters, it would cover all of Josephine County except Grants Pass and its urban growth boundary.

The sheriff’s department has dealt with staffing shortages for years. Sheriff Dave Daniel said at Wednesday’s public hearing that it's time for residents to take this step in supporting local law enforcement.

“Ninety-nine cents per 1,000 — boy, it’s not that much,” said Daniel regarding the assessed value. “Just to give us some stability, a foundation.”

Property tax revenues, beginning in the 2024-2025 fiscal year, would help support law enforcement’s dispatch, patrol, and evidence services. The proposed rate would raise approximately $5,643,350 for the service district in the first year, according to the ballot summary.

Last November, residents of Josephine County voted down a 3% seasonal sales tax that would have aided the department. Commissioner Dan DeYoung said Wednesday that creating this taxing district would be a huge step forward for the department and for public safety in the rural Southern Oregon county.

“I know money’s tight, and money’s this, and we all look at money, but we’ve got to look at our own safety throughout the county, and what do we offer anybody that comes here?” DeYoung said. “We need to guarantee not only our own safety, but people that come to visit us.”

In 2012, Josephine County voters did not approve a $12 million levy. As a result, sheriff’s deputies were laid off and jail inmates were released. In 2019, a report about law enforcement in the county stated that after the levy failed, concealed carry permits tripled in the county and drug crime rate increased to about three times the state’s rate.

Many citizens spoke in support of the tax during Wednesday’s public hearing.

“I remember 2012. I remember what it was like out there,” said a Cave Junction resident who was not identified. “I truly felt like we were living in the old West.”

Josephine County residents will be able to vote on this measure during the Nov. 7, 2023 election.

Ella Hutcherson was a 2023 Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism Intern at JPR after she graduated from the University of Oregon. She grew up in Coos Bay, Oregon and now produces freelance stories for JPR. Previously, Ella worked as education reporter for the Eugene Weekly and she was the managing editor of the UO student-run Ethos Magazine.