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Rogue River leaders will push five-year tax to retain police

ROGUE RIVER ' Hoping to keep police staffing at current levels, the City Council will place a five-year emergency services tax on November's ballot.

The proposed levy would maintain a five-member police force and increase the police clerk position from part- to full-time, says City Administrator Mark Reagles.

If voters give the OK, the local option tax will impose a tax of 67 cents per &

36;1,000 of assessed value ' or &

36;120.60 per year for a &

36;150,000 home ' beginning in fiscal year 2006-07. A total of &

36;430,671 would be raised through 2011.

Maintaining a five-member department is the key to maintaining 24/7 coverage, says Police Chief Ken Lewis.

Lewis says the department has seen a 36 percent increase in calls for service in the past year. In particular, meth-related crimes have spiked, he says.

— You cannot deny this valley is booming, says Lewis. There's a demand for services from the good folks and a demand for law enforcement from the bad folks.

Reagles says department costs are expected to increase to &

36;532,000 for the next fiscal year, when the levy would be imposed.

Police department costs have risen to a point where current property taxes and revenues (from the general fund) can no longer fund the five officers and one police clerk, said Reagles.

Lewis says his department expects to answer 3,000 calls for service by the end of this year. From 2000 to 2005, call volume has increased 44 percent with no increase in the number of authorized officers, he says.

It's just a matter of arithmetic, says Lewis. Five officers is what we need to maintain a high level of performance. This is not a time to be going down in our ability to provide services.

Reagles says the department has been a victim of increased demands on the general fund. And there simply isn't enough money coming in to absorb any increase in costs, he says.

It's not like (the police department) is frivolously spending money, says Reagles. In the past, there's simply been more general fund money available.

The financing crunch is coming just when the department has resolved two years of staffing challenges, Lewis says. Termination, resignations and transfers had kept the department short-staffed and struggling with burnout, he says.

We finally are operating with a full staff, says Lewis. And it's been nice. But things happen around the clock. Even after you solve the crimes, there's crime reports, grand jury appearances, trial testimony. If you have enough personnel to spread that workload out, the less impact it has on other staff members.

The proposed measure's eight-day appeals period will end Sept. 8, says Reagles.

If there is no appeal, it will be forwarded to Jackson County (Elections Center), he said.

Passage of the levy will require a double majority vote, which means it must get majority support and at least 50 percent voter turnout for it to pass Nov. 2.

The town has a history of supporting its police and fire departments, Reagles says.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail Rogue River leaders will push five-year tax to retain police "sspecht@mailtribune.com.