A new, yet not so new measure for Deschutes County voters will be on the May ballot. A property tax which helps pay for the 911 dispatch center will be expiring this summer, and voters will be asked if they want to keep it in place for five more years, officials said Thursday.
"A lot of people don't even realize 911 is there, until they unfortunately, have the need to use it," said Deschutes County 911 Director Rob Poirier.
County commissioners directed staff to draft the ballot title and accompanying documentation for a planned vote in two weeks and submission to the county clerk in time to make the May 21 ballot.
"This is really the hub of the whole public safety system that we have here in Deschutes County, and it's really vital that we continue to offer as we do now," Poirier said.
The new rate would be the same as the one that expires in June, of 23 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. That brings in about $3.5 million a year, nearly half of the dispatch center’s total $7.5 million yearly operating budget, said Poirier.
The real question: Would people rather pocket that extra cash or keep it going to 911 services?
"Just get it done," said one voter. "It's just part of living."
"I would want to sit down and talk with city council about where my taxes are going to," said another voter.
The rest comes from a permanent tax rate of 16 cents per $1,000. Last year, voters rejected a request to permanently levy the combined 39 cent rate for 911 services.
Without the added local option tax, Poirier said the district might have to bill the individual fire and police agencies to help cover the center’s cost, putting a further crimp on their usually tight budgets.
"It could mean about $1 million from their fund," said county Commissioner Tammy Baney. "There isn't added funding just sitting around. So it could mean we could have reductions in workforce, in order to pay for this service."
Elected officials and law enforcement will be going out to speak with voters explaining the proposed levy as Election Day approaches.