Black Butte Police

Two residents attend the Black Butte Ranch Police Department’s Safe Kids class in July of 2019.

Black Butte Ranch’s small police force is asking for its first service levy raise in a decade, saying it’s needed to prevent a loss in services and potential layoffs.

The proposed five-year levy raise — from 55 cents per $1,000 of assessed value to 65 cents — won’t add new officers or services, according to Judy Osborne, chair of the Black Butte Ranch Service District, which oversees the unincorporated community’s police department.

But if voters don’t pass the levy on the May 19 primary ballot, there could be cutbacks, she said.

“We can’t provide the same services if we don’t get a little (funding) increase,” Osborne said. “We’re going to have to do this.”

The average homeowner in Black Butte Ranch will pay about $50 more annually than today if the levy passes, Osborne said.

The Black Butte Police Department is a small outfit: four officers, two sergeants, an administrative manager and Chief Denney Kelley.

The department has been wise with budgeting its money in the past, said Kelley.

“We’re not just taking the money and doing whatever we want with it,” he said.

Osborne hopes Black Butte Ranch voters will be impressed that the department was able to keep costs manageable, so it didn’t have to ask voters for a higher levy.

“I’m amazed we’ve made it for 10 years without any increase,” she said.

But expenses continue to rise for the police department, necessitating the need for a levy raise, Osborne said. In particular, rising health insurance and retirement benefit costs began to add up, she said.

“Expenses increase; that’s what happens over time,” Osborne said.

Only those who live in Black Butte Ranch’s boundaries can vote for the Black Butte Ranch Police Department levy, Denney said.

The unincorporated community, located northwest of Sisters, mostly consists of a privately owned resort that swells in population during the summer. Osborne isn’t sure how many people will, or be able to, vote in the May primary from Black Butte Ranch, but she estimates about 100 to 200 people live there year-round.

Osborne admitted the timing is bad to ask people to raise their taxes now, with many people suffering financially due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But she hopes the community will appreciate the police department’s service enough to vote in favor of the levy.

“It’s not a good time to be asking for an increase in the levy,” Osborne said. “But I also believe the people I interact with here appreciate that they have a police department that is there, that is visible, that protects their property, that they can count on.”

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