Lane County officials Tuesday approved putting a levy they say provides a baseline of public safety on the May ballot for possible renewal.
"We are at such a minimal operation in our jail that this is really just barely keeping our head above water," Commissioner Laurie Trieger said. "This is not an expansion."
The Board of Commissioners unanimously approved asking voters to renew the five-year levy that provides funding to maintain jail capacity, continue mental health services at the jail and treat youth offenders. The renewal will appear on the May 16 ballot.
At 55 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, the levy would draw in around $19 million a year and cost the average homeowner about $118 each year, based on a median assessed value of around $214,500. The renewal rate is the same as the current levy.
That money helps maintain 255 usable jail beds, eight youth detention beds and eight youth treatment beds, Lane County Sheriff Cliff Harrold told officials last month. It also funds 78% of the cost of mental health services provided within the jail, he said.
Before the levy first passed in May 2013, the county jail operated 125 beds for local offenders. Capacity issues forced the jail to release more than 5,000 defendants and offenders, including some potentially violent offenders.
Today, the jail operates 367 beds and hasn't released any violent felony offenders because of capacity issues since the levy has been in place, Harrold said.
Measure renewal would give the sheriff's office greater capacity to hold those arrested for violent felonies until their cases are resolved instead of releasing them due to lack of space, according to a press release from the county.
Contact city government watchdog Megan Banta at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @MeganBanta_1.
This article originally appeared on Register-Guard: Lane County will ask voters to renew jail, youth services levy
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