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Scaled-down Jefferson Co. jail levy heads to May ballot


(Update: Sheriff comments on levy, what happens if new one fails)

Jefferson County commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday to send Sheriff Jim Adkins’ scaled-down, shorter jail operating levy to the May ballot, an effort they hope will avoid the resounding defeat voters handed down last November.

Nearly 63 percent of voters said no to a five-year, $15 million proposal that would have tacked 46 cents onto the current jail operating levy of $1.24 per $1,000 of assessed value.

Adkins said at the time it was clear the county would need to try again in May.

And so, commissioners approved sending a three-year local option tax levy for the jail to the May 21 ballot.

The reduced request would add 15 cents, for a total of $1.39 per $1,000, for a total of $6.8 million to be raised over the three-year period. That’s less than one-third the added tax rate sought last fall.

If the levy does not pass, Adkins said, “I’m going to have to cut 50 percent of my staff is what we think. Currently I have about 21 employees back there (in the jail), and so if I cut that down to 10 employees, I’m not going to be able to run (a jail with) the inmates that I currently do.”

The sheriff said Friday that “the only way I’m able to do this is to use all of my carry-over (funds) during the three years.”

A proposed ballot title said the levy would “provide the balance of the finances necessary to maintain existing jail staff operations,” to cover higher costs due to inflation, inmate medical expenses, insurance and PERS pension payments.

A big issue for the 160-bed Jefferson County facility is that Crook County is completing construction of its own jail this year and won’t need to rent beds at the Madras facility, as it has done for nearly 20 years, helping with the roughly $6 million a year needed to operate the jail.

Adkins has said he will continue to seek other counties that might need to rent space at the jail.

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