Law enforcement and libraries are among the services that we see as vital for the mid-Willamette Valley, so it should come as no surprise that we’re endorsing three ballot measures from Linn County that are featured in the November general election.
Voters should approve the Linn County law enforcement local option levy, the Sweet Home police levy and the Sweet Home library services operating levy.
All of these levies are renewals, though the Linn County levy asks for a slightly increased rate.
And all of these services seem even more critical for our communities lately. More on that in a bit.
First, we should point out that operating levies are generally how local law enforcement is funded in Oregon due to the state’s tax structure. Like it or not, these levies are commonplace, and we endorsed a similar public safety levy for Albany back in May. That was an easy decision for voters, and the county and Sweet Home police levies should be, too.
Public safety is among the most essential of government services, and maintaining our police coverage at the same level is a bit of a no-brainer. Our endorsement takes into account both COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement that seeks police reforms.
With the pandemic, we realize that many families are struggling in the mid-valley right now, and unemployment remains roughly double what it was back in February.
Money is tight, and that includes funding for county and city governments, both of which likely will face serious financial issues in the coming years. These levies will provide a lifeline and prevent job losses for the Sweet Home Police Department and the Linn County Sheriff’s Office (and to a lesser degree the Linn County District Attorney’s Office and the Linn County Juvenile Department).
Some experts also worry that during tough times, crime rates, substance abuse and other problems increase, putting more stress on agencies, and that’s another reason to maintain services.
The Black Lives Matter movement has cast law enforcement agencies throughout the nation in a less than flattering light. But our local public safety workers have performed admirably in a changing world.
We support certain police reforms, but voting against the levy won’t lead us in that direction. The defeat of these measures won’t result in additional training, nor shift resources and responsibilities for dealing with mental health issues, substance abuse and other problems. A “no” vote simply makes our communities less safe.
And let's not forget what these agencies did during the September wildfires. In addition to providing daily police coverage, the Linn County Sheriff’s Office and Sweet Home Police Department — and public safety workers and volunteers from numerous other departments — went above and beyond the call of duty to help residents.
The Linn County law enforcement levy would tax residents at $3.08 per $1,000 of assessed value, up from $2.83 per $1,000 of assessed value, and is estimated to raise a total of $148 million over four years. If you own a home valued at $300,000, a nice round figure that's also the average real estate sale price in Lebanon nowadays, you would pay about $925 per year.
The Sweet Home police levy would tax residents at $7.85 per $1,000 of assessed value, bringing in approximately $16 million over five years. The tax for a $300,000 house and property would be $2,355 annually.
Switching gears, it should come as no surprise to our readers that we’re fans of the written word and therefore fans of the power of libraries.
The Sweet Home Library’s main source of funding is its levy. If renewed, this would tax residents at $1.17 per $1,000 of assessed value, or about $350 a year for a home valued at $300,000. The levy would bring in roughly $2.38 million over the course of five years.
That might sound like a lot, but for this valuable service, it amounts to a shoestring budget.
The library has done an admirable job during the pandemic, continuing to hold programs and delivering books for residents. It also remains open so that residents can browse for books and use computers, perhaps to go online and look for jobs during the pandemic. By all accounts, library director Rose Peda is doing a fine job leading this facility, and she and her staff deserve the support of voters, too.