County justice levy is now up to voters

August 18, 2010 06:00 am

No one should be surprised by this news. There will be a law enforcement property tax levy on the November ballot for consideration by Curry County voters.

Yet, as always with tax measures, there will be those who will complain that they didn’t know there was a problem, that they didn’t have a chance to get involved in crafting the proposal, or that the proposed levy is being forced on them by elected officials.

Sorry folks; those three arguments simply don’t hold any credence.

County officials have been trying to explain the situation and get the public involved in any potential solution for years. Those officials now are doing their duty by putting the tax levy before voters, who now have the final decision.

While the explanation can be long and varied, the bottom line is simple. The county does not have enough money to operate an adequate justice system. It cannot put adequate deputies in the field, it risks lawsuits from an inadequate jail, it cannot afford to prosecute crimes, and it cannot afford to deal with juvenile offenders.

 There are no expectations of a bailout. The federal government has broken the timber contracts that funded these programs for so long. Grants generally won’t pay for ongoing programs. The state points to our rock-bottom property tax rates as as proof that we have the flexibility to solve our own problems.

Solving it with this levy would increase our property taxes by $2.27 per $1,000 taxable property value. To figure out your personal share, find your property tax bill from last fall, and find the taxable value (not the market value), divide that value by 1,000 and then multiply by $2.27.

To decide if that price is worthwhile, estimate the cost to you if you cannot get help from a deputy, if the county gets sued by an injured jail prisoner, or if you are the victim of a crime that does not go to trial because there are not enough prosecutors. You might also consider whether those situations would cause a decline in property values.

No, this is not a surprise action, and yes, the choice is up to voters. Anyone who argues differently hasn’t been paying attention.