County sheriff’s levy goes to Nov. 2 ballot

By Scott Swanson
Lebanon Local
Linn County voters will have another opportunity in the upcoming Nov. 2 election to vote on whether or not to renew the Linn County Sheriff’s Office’s Four-Year Option Tax Levy.
More than 60 percent of voters turned the measure down in last year’s November election.
If approved, the levy would set a four-year, fixed rate of $2.98 per $1,000 of assessed value, an increase of 15 cents over the levy currently in place, which expires June 30, 2022. If approved, a homeowner with an assessed value (not a market value) of $185,000 would pay $551.30 annually, an increase of $27.75 per year over the current rate. The proposed rate is actually 10 cents lower than the rate proposed in 2020.
It would fund operations of the Sheriff’s Office (patrol, investigations, jail services) (76%), criminal prosecution (10%), and juvenile offender supervision and detention by the Juvenile Department (14%) from July 1 of next year through June 30, 2026.
Sheriff Jim Yon said the levy funds 127 of the Sheriff’s Office’s 190 positions.
“The vast majority of those are patrol and in the jail,” he said. “What I hate about government, and we’ve always heard it for years, is ‘if you don’t support this thing, bad things are going to happen.’”
In this case, he said, it’s true.
“The county doesn’t have funding to support us at the level we are operating at. This levy is where our funding comes from.”
Yon said he and 54 other Sheriff’s Office volunteers walked the streets in Lebanon, Sweet Home, Albany and Brownsville on Saturday, Oct. 9, to distribute door hangers, and the department is also using radio and internet advertising to get the word out.
He said, following the 2020 election, that he thought too many county residents were unaware of the facts relating to the levy, prior to that vote.
“I think there was confusion what it actually meant,” Yon said then of the levy request.
The department is careful with its revenue, he said.
“We’re misers with the money. We’re all taxpayers. We try to stretch the dollars as far as they will go. Nobody wants waste.”
He said if the levy passes, one of his goals is to use some of the revenue to establish local mental health “crisis centers” in the larger communities in the county, to which law enforcement personnel could take people “in crisis” who need mental care “because they take up so much of our time.”
“We all see these folks, going into stores, driving down the road, and there’s no place to take them any more. We need a place to take them, staffed by mental health professionals who can give them services, get them on right track. Right now, we don’t have that.”
Yon said if the levy fails, the Sheriff’s Office will be unable to continue 24-hour service to every call and a “fully functioning jail.”
“You look outside our counties and they don’t have 24-hour coverage. We still go to every call for service. We still do that because it’s important to have the trust of the public – we answer the call when they call.”