EUGENE, Ore. (KMTR) -- Lane County Commissioners said no to a public safety levy on the November ballot that could open more jail beds, opting to take more time and work toward a measure in May. Commissioners heard findings and recommendations from a research consultant today, who said voters could pass a levy if put on the ballot this fall.
Timing was a major factor in the board's decision. If commissioners wanted to put the levy to a vote this fall, they would have a matter of days to write the measure and get it into the voters' pamphlet. Instead of rushing that process, board members will look ahead to the May election.
Before their decision, commissioners heard recommendations from a consultant who was hired to research voters' willingness to approve a levy. The study shows voters in Lane County are very aware of the challenges facing public safety departments. Sheriff Tom Turner says that’s a start. "We want the public to know what's going on. And it looks like much of our public is educated on at least what some of the problems are and some of the issues that we're facing. And so that's encouraging. I wanted an answer today, but of course, you know, this is a process," Turner said.
The consulting firm found voters would say yes to a levy increasing property taxes by $0.50 per thousand dollars of assessed value. That would open more jail beds, but not all of them, and offer a temporary fix to public safety funding. The county administrator says whether the levy passed this November or in May, funding would start coming in November of 2013. The sheriff says if nothing is done by the May election, more cuts will have to be made, leaving about eighty jail beds for the county.