Lane County residents will vote this May on a property tax measure to fund jail beds. The Board of Commissioners Tuesday decided to put a 5-year public safety levy on the ballot. It was a 4 to 1 vote.
Commissioner Pete Sorenson cast the dissenting vote. He objected to what he called a lack of balance.
Sorenson explained, “In that having a ‘jail only’ proposal that the board has decided to pursue doesn’t deal with the wide array of problems within the public safety system.”
Sorenson also wants a more long term plan. The Board commissioned two public safety surveys, both of which showed widespread support for a jail-only levy. The ballot measure would add 55 cents per 1000 dollar assessed value. 50 cents for adult jail beds and 5 cents for juvenile offenders. Commissioner Pat Farr says he sees providing jail beds as a way to stem the crisis.
Farr said, “I am concerned about the entire public safety system as well as the jail system. The jail system just happens to present the most egregious issue that we have in front of us right now. People being turned out, people who have stabbed, quote, and robbed, quote, being turned back out onto the streets.”
Currently, due to budget cuts, the jail is only able to hold 83 local offenders. The levy, if passed, would restore capacity to 255. This would still be short of the average number of jail beds per capita in other Oregon counties. The election is May 21.