The public has a chance to weigh in during a public hearing on the county’s Public Safety Local Option Tax Levy proposal at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 18, in the first-floor conference room of the County Business Administration Building, 601 State St., Hood River.

After the hearing, the Hood River County Board of Commissioners will decide whether to go forward with placing the measure on the May 2020 ballot, or to go back and rework the measure.

The commissioners agreed on a 78-cent rate last month, and have since held several work sessions to work out the specifics of the measure’s language.

The original version of the levy, called the Public Health and Safety Five-Year Local Option Tax, asked voters to approve a tax rate of 89 cents per $1,000 assessed value to support public health and safety services provided by Hood River County. It failed 51.43 percent to 48.57 percent — a closer margin than the county’s second revenue measure on the May 2019 ballot, the Prepared Food and Beverage Tax, which failed 59.45 percent to 40.55 percent.

The new levy focuses exclusively on funding the Hood River County Sheriff’s Office, which is currently funded by the county’s General Fund. If the measure passes, the county would be able to pull some funding from the Sheriff’s Office and reallocate it within the rest of the General Fund.

The county’s goals with the measure are to stabilize the county’s budget situation and to improve public safety services throughout the county.

The 78-cent rate maintains the department’s current level of funding and allows the Sheriff’s Office to fill an administrative position and hire two additional deputies, which will allow the department to schedule 24/7 patrol coverage while maintaining officer safety, sustainably fulfilling its statutory mandates, and cutting down on excessive overtime.

For more information on the county’s budget situation, visit www.co.hood-river.or.us. The most recent draft of the measure will be included in the commissioners’ packet for the Feb. 18 meeting, available through the county website (hover over the “County Departments” tab in the sidebar and click “Board of Commissioners,” then click the “Meeting Agendas and Minutes” link, click “Board of Commissioner Meeting Agendas,” and select “BOC Packet 02.18.20”).

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