MADRAS, Ore. - Jefferson County commissioners voted unanimously and without debate Wednesday to send a five-year jail levy to the Nov. 5 ballot to replace one that expires next June, Sheriff Jim Adkins said.
If the proposal is approved, the local option tax would raise the rate from the current 99 cents per $1,000 of assessed value to $1.24. Adkins said that's what the department needs to continue running the 12-year-old, 160-bed jail at its current staffing level.
"A big plus and help" for the effort, Adkins said, is that a 77-cent bond that paid for construction of the jail in 2000-2001 will expire and come off the property tax rolls next June, when the current jail operations levy also expires.
"So even with the 25-cent increase, the taxpayers (would) see an overall savings of 52 cents over what they (paid in taxes) last year," the sheriff said.
It's estimated the proposal would raise $7.95 million over the five year, roughly half of the cost of running the jail.
Failure to pass a new levy -- in November or, if that fails, possibly in May -- and the expiraton of the current levy would mean the jail's operating budget would be cut 40 percent, Adkins said, meaning reductions in staff and inmates through the "matrix" system of early release for certain crimes.
While the jail is stated as having 160 beds, "when you factor in all the laws and required separation rules, we think we will max out at about 145 or 150 beds," the sheriff said. "Today, we have 68 inmates. With our current staffing, I believe we can increase the inmate population to 100 inmates. If it get over that number, I will have to put on more staff to handle the workload."
Jefferson County currently rents 10 beds to Deschutes County, which Adkins said they plan on stopping in the next 12 months, once a jail expansion project is complete.
They also rent 16 beds to Crook County, which Adkins said is "a fairly stable source of revenue," though they are talking about possibly building their own jail by renovating the soon-closed Pioneer Memorial Hospital. Adkins said he has "plenty of room to house all their inmates" and will try to "make them a screaming deal."