Interview with Josephine County Commissioner Simon Hare regarding FY 2016-17 budget
RVM: From looking at the proposed budget, public safety will receive $14 million this year. How far below do you believe that is for “adequate” funding for public safety in Josephine County – and what do you consider “adequate” services?
SH: In the current fiscal year 2016-17 the public safety fund will spend around $12 million, with a $2 million ending fund balance. Next fiscal year 2017-18 we anticipate spending to be around $6 million, with a $150,000 ending fund balance. In fiscal year 2010-11 the public safety fund was spending a little over $17 million. “Adequate” or minimally adequate is a hard number to determine. Even in fiscal year 2010-11 the county was unable to provide 24hr patrol and our jail bed population was capped at roughly 160.
RVM: It looks like over the next few years this funding will taper even further, to under $10 million. Where do you see primary cuts in services with those numbers?
SH: Future cuts will be determined by the Board of County Commissioners in coordination with the Sheriff, District Attorney, and Juvenile Justice Director. It is likely that all programs within the Criminal Justice System will experience significant reductions or potentially be eliminated altogether.
RVM: Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future for funding and/or public safety services in the county?
SH: In the absence of revenue replacement from the federal government or a local levy, we will not be able to sustain current levels of public safety services. Neither option seems likely under current conditions.
RVM: What is your primary basis for that outlook?
There does not appear to be support from the majority at both the federal level or the local level.
RVM: Voters have routinely voted down property tax levies to support funding for public safety. Is there a scenario where you see voters supporting a tax levy?
SH: When the reduction in public safety has an effect on the majority of citizens, then there will be support for a local funding solution (either a tax levy or permanent district tax).
RVM: A bulk of federal funding is about to expire. Do you see any opportunity to restore/retain this funding?
SH: The last SRS legislation expired in October of 2015. All O&C counties are technically on the O&C share receipt model. There seems to be very little support for another extension/renewal of the SRS program at the federal level. The only vehicle being considered would have to be accompanied by federal forest management reform legislation.
RVM: What conversations are you having with federal officials towards that end (of retaining federal support)? Who do you see as a champion in this regard for Josephine County?
SH: That role is taking place at the Board of County Commissioner level, and with the Association of O&C Counties. Senator Wyden has taken credit for the renewals, however Congressman Walden, Schrader & DeFazio have also been champions in the past. The appetite for a renewal of SRS without federal forest management reform is small if non-existent.