Commissioners consider 911 levy

Deschutes board may ask voters to continue expiring temporary tax

By Sheila G. Miller / The Bulletin

Published Feb 13, 2013 at 04:00AM

Deschutes County 911 plans to ask voters to renew its temporary tax rate for another five years.

Rob Poirier, director of the Deschutes County 911 district, will recommend to the Deschutes County Commission today that a local option levy be placed on the ballot in May.

Right now, property owners pay a permanent tax rate of 16 cents per $1,000 and a temporary tax levy of 23 cents per $1,000. Poirier said that temporary tax provides the district with about $3.5 million each year, almost half of the $7.5 million annual operating budget.

“That’s quite a bit, and obviously there’s just no way we continue at the current service level without having that renewed,” Poirier said.

But that temporary tax rate is due to expire in June, and the permanent rate is not enough to pay for 911 and dispatch operations. Poirier said the 911 district wants to extend the temporary 23 cents per $1,000 tax for another five years.

“This would be just maintaining the status quo,” Poirier said. “We have no intention of raising any taxes whatsoever. We are just wanting to give the voters an opportunity to keep funding the district.”

Deschutes County Commissioner Tony DeBone said today’s discussion will center on how much taxpayers should be asked to pay. DeBone said the 911 district has funds available because its new facility came in under budget.

“They’ve got some money in the bank,” DeBone said. “So there will be some discussion around the concept of what’s appropriate. And we will be thinking about looking at a future permanent tax rate.”

In May 2012, voters rejected a measure that would have created a new 911 district, making the district’s temporary rate part of its permanent rate and keeping total 911 taxes at the current level. Officials had proposed a new tax rate of 39 cents per $1,000 in assessed property value, the same as the total amount currently charged to property owners.

Were the levy to fail in May, Poirier said the 911 district would likely have to become simply a 911 call center and would require all the fire departments and police agencies to pay user fees or hire their own dispatchers.

“What that would do is shift the cost onto local agencies, and if you’ve been reading any kind of news, you know they aren’t really in the position to absorb that kind of cost and not have an impact on service levels,” Poirier said.

The commissioners, because they serve as the 911 district governing body, must approve of asking for a vote to continue the tax.

“911 is a countywide service,” DeBone said. “It does matter to each fire district and police force. If we didn’t have the levy, it would be possible that they would send fees back to different districts.”

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