To replace expiring operations levy

by: FILE PHOTO - Sheriff Jim AdkinsFor the past seven years, as the Jefferson County jail has lost revenue from the rental of beds, the county has managed to operate it without any increases.

In November, the county and Sheriff Jim Adkins will ask voters for a 25 cent increase in the operations levy — from 99 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value to $1.24 per $1,000.

But even if the increase is approved, taxpayers will still be paying out less for the jail than they've been paying since the jail opened in 2000. That's because the county has been working to pay off the jail construction bond, which is due to mature in 2015.

"The bond is at 77 cents (per $1,000)," said Adkins. "This year, the commissioners are only going to levy about 40 cents of that, and then it will be paid off in June. I'm only asking for (an additional) 25 cents."

County Administrator Jeff Rasmussen explained that the county collected a little extra on the bond in order to have reserves to make up for unpaid taxes. However, tax payments came in at a better than expected rate.

Rasmussen said that the construction bond will be paid off a year early. "The rates have already dropped in half for the coming year," he said. "The next tax year, it will be zero."

As a result, Adkins said, the combined total for the jail bond and new jail levy would be about 15 cents less when the levy took effect in July 2014 — or down 52 cents per $1,000 from last year.

The jail operations levy would replace the three-year levy that expires June 30, 2014.

"To keep the jail running at status quo, with the minimum staffing we have right now, we have to have $1.24," said Adkins. "The only reason we're able to run at 99 cents right now is we're using carryover money from the days that we were making money from Crook County."

Soon after the Jefferson County Correctional Facility opened in 2000, Crook County was spending nearly $1 million per year renting beds to house its inmates, he explained. At that time, Crook County was renting 32 beds at a higher rate.

To remain competitive with other jails, Jefferson County had to lower its rental rate to $63.93 per day, per bed. Now, Crook County rents about 16 beds per day, and Deschutes County, about 10.

"There hasn't been an increase in eight years," said Adkins, pointing out that costs for food, utilities, personnel and other expenses have continued to rise.

The 160-bed jail, which had 68 inmates on Friday, operates with a barebones staff of 19, including the captain, supervisors and cook. "At our current staffing of 19 employees, we can probably go to 100 inmates," he said.

If the levy doesn't pass, officials anticipate a budget reduction of about 40 percent, which would result in the layoff of employees, fewer inmates housed, and early release of certain inmates.

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