In Oregon, Josephine County and its county seat, the city of Grants Pass, are considering adding a seasonal retail tax to pay for law enforcement in the wake of reduced funding.
Josephine County Sheriff Dave Daniel recently met with Grants Pass city leaders to discuss the potential tax solution to the funding problem, Fox 26 reported.
“We have a problem in law enforcement, we’re losing funding,” said Daniel, who hopes the tax will be a sustainable revenue stream for law enforcement.
Daniel, a 28-year veteran of the profession, claimed that the department has always struggled to levy funds from the city.
“There’s a whole lot of ebb and flow in that, and there’s dangers in not having sustainable suitable funding for a law enforcement agency because if you get a no vote on a levy you lose a lot of people, and in this day and age that’s dangerous,” Daniel said.
Daniel first proposed the new tax solution to the Grants Pass City Council as a seasonal “law enforcement retail activities” tax that would go into effect from April 15 to October 15 each year. The tax is mainly designed to impact tourists drawn to the area’s natural beauty and temperate climate for popular activities such as white-water rafting on the Rogue River and wine-tasting at local vineyards.
“The idea behind this is to get everybody to pay, there are a lot of people that come into our community and use our services and really get a free ride for lack of a better term. We think there should be something for law enforcement in that,” Daniel explained.
Under the proposal, a 3% tax would apply to the first $2,000 of any purchase. Some items are exempt from the tax, including unprepared food, prescription medications, internet connection, motor vehicle fuel, small vehicle sales, liquor, tobacco products and marijuana items.
The sheriff believes the tax would generate around $4.4 million for Josephine County, $3.7 million for Grants Pass and $208,000 for nearby Cave Junction. This money would help to staff the sheriff’s office patrol division, detectives and more.
“It looks like this would provide a fully funded sheriff’s office for at least the patrol division, administration, detectives division to where we are up to 24/7 and will be able to provide an even better service than we are now,” Daniel said.
Commissioner Dan DeYoung said he supports the idea but needs voter approval first. He admitted that other taxes have so far proved unpopular among locals.
“I would refer this to the voter because the voter needs to have their thumbs up or down, but it needs to have a chance in front of the voter, if not, we’re back to square one with property taxes and districts and so on and so forth that have proved really unpopular,” DeYoung said.