For two days now, Lane County residents pleaded with the county board of commissioners to improve public safety. After hearing those public comments, the board unanimously agreed a tax levy is the only way out for the time being.
It may not have been the most convenient time, but residents still felt compelled to urge for more safety measures.
“I work just like everybody else does. and i got a family that i care about,” said Eugene resident Steve Sieczkowski.
“I think some of them actually stayed here overnight just to be able to testify twice,” said Pat Farr, Lane County District 4 Commissioner.
For many, the issue at hand is just too pressing not take action.
“Public safety in general for Lane County is pretty much at a critical state,” Sieczkowski said.
With so many budget cuts, the sheriff’s office is in a crisis. The Lane County Jail has been called a revolving door of criminals, with dozens walking out immediately after being arrested because there’s simply a lack of jail beds at the facility. Even offenders accused of attempted murder are being released.
The sheriffs office says Lane County is one of the only counties in Oregon actually seeing a crime increase in recent years.
“I think the community as a whole is becoming more aware of the situation with public safety in Lane County,” Sieczkowski said.
The Lane County Board of Commissioners decided Wednesday to move forward with a property tax levy. It has asked staff to decide on a final number for the tax along with ballot language.
It’s likely the tax would fall between 55 and 60 cents. This means that the median homeowner who owns a 151 thousand dollar home would end up paying about 75 dollars a year.
Lane County residents would vote on the levy in an election this May, and if approved, commissioners acknowledged this is not a solution to the long-term problem.
“At some point, over the course of the next four years or so, we’ll have to have a strong discussion on how do we go into the future with something that’s going to be more permanent,” Farr said.
The Lane County Sheriff’s Office says if it doesn’t get more funding, whether it’s through a property tax levy or other means, the jail will lose more beds.