EUGENE, Ore. (KMTR) – Lane County Commissioners will get another round of public comment before a possible vote on the proposed 55 cent property tax levy for the county jail and juvenile detention facility.
Lane County staff has drawn up an official “draft” version of the levy that commissioners are getting a first look at on Tuesday night. While commissioners could take action on the proposal Tuesday, commissioners say there is still room for change.
The draft levy proposes a 55 cent property tax on every $1,000 of assessed property value on property in Lane County. That would cost a $150,000 home about $83 each year.
Under the draft, 50 cents of the proposed levy would go to the Lane County Jail. 5 cents of the proposed levy would go to county’s juvenile detention facility. In all, the county estimates the levy would raise more than $12 million each year.
The money would allow the jail to keep 255 jail beds open and the juvenile detention facility to keep 16 beds open for the duration of the levy.
Commissioners Pete Sorenson says there are still some questions lingering.
“Well it's certainly always subject to change, of course, I am interested in the election process itself. I'll be asking about a voter’s pamphlet and I'll be asking about what the impact of this decision is on the rest of Lane County's general fund,” says Sorenson.
Commissioners are still unclear of the levy’s impact on the general fund due to the expected budget losses of the Sheriff’s Office over the next five years. While levy funding will remain consistent at 55 cents per every $1,000 of assessed property value, the Sheriff’s Office is still expecting to lose money as several federal programs will expire and the general fund is expected to take a cut.
Meanwhile, to provide consistency, the Sheriff’s Office will keep 255 jail beds open for the duration of the levy. To make up the funding gap, the levy has been written so that any funding gap for the 255 beds will automatically be pulled from the general fund.
Commissioner Pat Farr says one of his biggest concerns with the levy is getting a message out to the public about how the levy money would be tracked and spent.
Under the proposal, the money would be put in to special accounts only for use by the jail and youth services for the juvenile detention facility. The money would be audited after the first six months, then every 12 months after that.
"I hear it continually that in the past, this agency, this government body as well as others have said that they would do a certain thing with money and then find ways to spend it someplace else we need to be able to assure people, 100% that they're going to get what we say they're going to get,” says Farr.
A vote is unlikely on Tuesday evening because Commissioner Faye Stewart is expected to miss the public comment session due to illness. If there is note vote on Tuesday, to get the levy on the May 2013 ballot, commissioners will have to vote before March 1st.
The next vote could come at a board meeting on Tuesday, February 12th, 2013.