BEND, Ore. - Deschutes County commissioners decided Monday they can save taxpayers money, while still operating 911 without any cuts -- that's if voters approve the 911 local option levy in May.
Commissioners who oversee the county 911 Service District determined it could operate under a smaller operating levy then the one first approved last month.
Now, commissioners voted unanimously for the revised measure, lowering the tax rate.
The measure is reduced from 23 cents to 20 cents per $1,000 of assessed home value.
For example, if you are a $200,000 homeowner, you pay $46 a year for the current 911 levy -- and now would pay $40 a year for the new one.
A small difference, but symbolic to commissioners, showing their willingness to listen and adapt.
"I think it's really the thing that is notable about the commission is that we listened and we try to adjust when needed," said Commissioner Alan Unger. "And if we don't need more taxpayer money, we won't require it, so I think this is a good path."
Commissioners and 911 officials are thanking Bend resident Larry Fulkerson, who questioned some numbers in the original proposal.
"I think it's good that you can take new information, put it into play and actually reverse a decision," said Commissioner Tammy Baney. "And that, to me, is democracy in action."
Fulkerson convinced county staff they had built enough surplus and reserve money and could operate under a lower tax rate.
"Through the use of effective communication skills, you have converted a concerned citizen from someone who was willing to spend $400 of his retirement income to oppose the 911 levy in the Voters Pamphlet to someone who is now willing to spend $400 to support the amended levy proposal," Fulkerson said.
For others in the county, even the lower levy is not something they support.
"I think it's no time to be raising anything -- we have enough taxes as it is," said Ethel Kelly.
But county leaders hope the lower levy tax rate will boost the odds of success at the ballot box.
"If we don't have 911 dispatch, we don't have public safety in Deschutes County," Baney said.
Baney continued to say while the rate discussion has been good, what is critical about the levy is it expires on June 30. Without it, 911 won't have enough money to run as it does now.