EUGENE, Ore. (KMTR) – As Lane County staff works toward drafting a new levy to fund the jail and the juvenile detention facility for five years, commissioners are also looking to bthe future and how to fund public safety for the long-term.
A draft version of the proposed five-year, 55-cent levy to help fund the jail and juvenile detention will go in front of the Lane County Board of Commissioners next Tuesday, February 5. While board members say they're encouraged by the unanimous progress, they're also pointing out that the levy is not a permanent fix to Lane County's public safety funding issues.
“This really is step number one in dealing with the immediate problem,” said Lane County Commissioner Sid Leiken in an interview with NewsSource 16 on Thursday. “Dealing with the immediate need right now and then planning for ultimately the entire public safety system.".
If it passes, the county estimates that the 55-cent levy would generate more than $12 million for jail and youth services. The county is drafting the levy so that for every 55 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, 50 cents would go to the county's adult jail. The remaining 5 cents would go to the county's juvenile detention facility in youth services. The county says with the levy funds, it would guarantee that at least 255 jail beds would be open in the Lane County Jail for the next five years.
However, commissioners say if it passes, the levy will really just “slow the bleeding” problem of immediate jail inmate releases and that it won't totally fix the system. With that in mind, commissioners are still working on a long-term solution that many are calling a ten year plan.
The plan, which could be for more than 10 years, will be a series of steps outlined by county staff that could help restore public safety services across the entire system. Services include the jail, corrections programs and rural sheriff's office patrols.
Since the plan is still being drafted, there are no concrete ideas. However, Commissioner Sid Leiken says the plan will likely be a multi-pronged effort including new funding mechanisms, attracting new private business and working with lawmakers in Washington D.C. to restart logging on Lane County's Federal forest land.
Leiken says the levy is just step one.
"By taking these initial steps, I think that the idea is we need to build some confidence with our constituency and our citizens of Lane County and hopefully this is what the first step will do before these next steps,” said Leiken. “Frankly, I look at it this way, ultimately, this is in the hands of the citizens of Lane County."
One funding strategy that Lane County is currently looking at is a model that Deschutes County (Bend) uses to fund its jail and sheriff's office. Back in the 1990s, Deschutes County voters passed two property tax levies which are ongoing. One levy pays for the jail and corrections programs; the other levy pays to fund rural patrol services. With the patrol levy, residents who live within any city limits and are under the jurisdiction of a police force pay a lower fee than rural residents who solely rely on county law enforcement.
In working with the Federal government, Commissioner Leiken says he's also excited about the prospect of having Oregon's Senator Ron Wyden as the chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Commissioner Leiken says the last time an Oregonian was on one of the top Senate Committees was when Senator Mark Hatfield served at the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee from 1995 to 1997.
Senator Wyden is currently working on a national bi-partisan energy bill that could help logging in Lane County.