December 11, 1995
BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS' PUBLIC HEARING
Harris Hall Main Floor - 1:30 p.m.
Vice-Chair Cindy Weeldreyer presided with Steve Cornacchia and Bobby Green, Sr. present. Ellie Dumdi and Jerry Rust excused. Sharon Giles, Recording Secretary.
PUBLIC HEARING/Sheriff's Levy/Impacts on Other Units of Local Government
Teresa Wilson, County Counsel, reviewed her December 7 memorandum dealing with the purpose of today's hearing(s).
Sheriff Bob McManus provided some opening comments. He outlined the history of the proposal to this point, explaining that without an additional revenue source, the citizens of Lane County need to make a decision about what level of services they wish to continue for their community. McManus stated that this levy would maintain the current service levels, while restoring some previous services and providing some critical enhancements to services. He explained the concept of the two-tier levy approach and provided information on how to read the handouts.
Bill Van Vactor, County Administrator, noted that David Garnick, Rick Schulz, Jim Gangle and Sheriff's Office staff were present to answer any questions that may arise.
Weeldreyer opened the Public Hearing.
Jim Seaberry, 3294 Stark Street, Santa Clara, distributed copies of his information, reporting that there are currently 275 sheriff's employees and a budget of $15.7 million, for a total revenue use per employee of $57,091. He continued that the proposal for the first year is for a budget of $27.4 million and a total of 380 employees, for a total revenue use per employee of $72,105. He continued to provide detailed figures on per day and per hour income from the levy (see material on file). Seaberry stated that crime is commensurate with city growth and is spreading to urban growth areas. He questioned why there needs to be a greater tax burden for the Urban Growth Boundary, noting that for senior citizens the proposed tax increase would be equivalent to their monthly Medicare premium.
Mary Sherriffs, 1025 Willamette, Suite 200, stated that she is here as chair of Eugene's Community Response Team Operations. She described the Team's efforts, indicating that they rely on the Sheriff's Office all the time. Sherriffs noted that the group had sent the Board a letter dated November 8 and asked the Board to review the information in that letter.
Vernie Johnson, 45241 Goodpasture Road, Vida, distributed copies of her comments and then read them into the record. She stated that these additional taxes are regressive and cruel. Johnson referred to the concept of "in lieu of taxes" and asked why residents aren't receiving dividends from EWEB, etc. She remarked that since EWEB is now selling millions of gallons of water to high tech companies, it is an ideal time to share the profits with all the communities who provide the watershed. Johnson stressed that there needs to be an equal distribution of new wealth and that all new taxes should be rejected until the idea is evaluated. In the alternative, she suggested that the County look into the three SWAT teams that are in effect in Lane County, as well as self-insurance funding and the voters' mandate regarding PERS.
Susan Bock, 38727 McKenzie Highway, remarked that she is a member of Citizens for a Safe Community and that she believes strongly in this tax levy. Bock stated that Lane County has a crime problem and that this tax levy will do three things - reopen the work camp, increase beds in the jail and increase patrol deputies.
Kat Summerlin, 92619 Pioch Lane, Springfield, noted that the public is suffering to keep schools in order. She stressed that rural residents have chosen to live there and know that they won't have the same level of services as people in town. Summerlin stated that it is not fair to charge triple the taxes as the crime problem is an overflow from the cities.
Earl Kelley, 04586 Meares Street, Florence, stated that he would like to see the Board put up funding for the Sheriff to put out a fact sheet in response to Joe Mosely's erroneous article in the Saturday Register-Guard. Van Vactor commented that, as a general rule, Lane County has not provided fact sheets and has relied on citizens to do that. Kelly stressed that someone has an obligation to see that citizens are properly informed. Weeldreyer suggested that perhaps an opinion piece (op ed) could be put in the Register-Guard.
Ron Chase, 1775 West 14th Avenue, commented that if the levy is placed on the ballot as it is currently proposed, he would urge the Commissioners to restore human service cuts with the dollars that will be freed up. He stressed that this levy puts too much resource in one function. Chase indicated that he supports the amount of money proposed, but not the way it is proposed.
Jeanne Benson, 1524 McKinley, indicated that she is director of Catholic Community Services and she urged the Board to restore funds to IHSC and public health services. She remarked that counseling, parent education and home visits could prevent many problems.
Jayme Vasconcellos, 944 West Fifth, Centro LatinoAmericano, also asked for the restoration of social services and public health. He commented that to make a tug of war between two necessary functions in society (law enforcement and social services) is not the way to look at it. Vasconcellos stressed that unless we do something at the front end, more and more funds for law enforcement will be needed.
Bill Johnson, 26824 Hwy. 36, Cheshire, stated that he had just paid his property taxes. He remarked that it looks like we have a sixth commissioner (referring to the Sheriff). Johnson indicated that he doesn't see any value in the present plan. He suggested that if the five commissioners can't control problems within the Sheriff's Office and need to break him off the main budget, then they are not doing their job.
Kathy Baker, 37466 Jasper-Lowell Road, Jasper, indicated her support for the Sheriff's levy. She stressed the need to pass this levy as the rural areas need more coverage.
Neale Hyatt, 740 Madison, stated that he can't support the levy the way it is. He stressed that the Board needs to tell the public what will happen to the Sheriff's current portion of the General Fund money. With regard to the Jail, Hyatt asked what percentage of prisoners are from the City of Eugene and how many from the county. He asked if Eugene is paying in proportion to the amount of services it gets. Hyatt expressed concern regarding the quality of service from the Sheriff's department, stating that the "fast green Camaros" are giving tickets on the Interstate. He suggested that these cars be put where they can be used most effectively.
Ted Brass, 301 Lynnbrook Drive - a brief statement by Mr. Brass, in support of the levy, was read into the record by Susan Bock.
Warren Weathers, Mayor of Lowell, 29 S. Alder Street, Lowell, commented that his city is too small to afford its own police services and that the approach developed best addresses the citizens of that area. He indicated that the key to adoption rests in having the Sheriff be in control of his budget and that any increase in property taxes be justified by increased presence of deputies.
Responding to Weeldreyer's question regarding Vernie Johnson's reference to "in lieu of taxes", Van Vactor stated that he was not familiar with that and would make copies of the 1992 Revenue Task Force Report.
Responding to Weeldreyer, Captain Ben Sunderland stated that the City of Eugene uses well over 60% of jail space. Responding to Cornacchia, Sunderland outlined the 1973 statutory requirement for counties to assume responsibilities for the jails. He added that there is no vehicle to require exact payments for jail operation from cities.
Van Vactor distributed a handout dealing with proposed potential uses for the Sheriff's current general fund support and reviewed information on that sheet (see material on file).
Green remarked that there is not $10.9 million, but actually $2.3 million that is really available, noting that there are many unmet needs that need to be addressed.
Weeldreyer stressed that Lane County is truly facing a fiscal meltdown with the reduction of timber revenues, commenting that this is the best option that has been developed to satisfy the public's number one interest in law enforcement. She observed that the Sheriff's initial request was much higher and was reduced to this amount in an effort to balance services against tax increases. Weeldreyer noted that the tax base has not been addressed since early in the century. She expressed appreciation for the public comments.
Weeldreyer recessed this public hearing and adjourned this meeting at 2:34 p.m.
Sharon Giles, Board Secretary
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