GRANTS PASS, Ore. — Despite Josephine County’s budget problems over the past several years, county commissioners have been able to hold onto a small reserve of contingency funds for a rainy day. Wednesday morning, with rain drops falling outside their meeting, commissioners approved the next year’s budget which dips into some of those funds
The days of a single patrol for a single shift only five days a week will come to an end in Josephine County — at least for the next fiscal year.
“I’ve never worked anywhere that we didn’t have somebody to respond when a citizen called for help and I’ve worked in third world countries where that wasn’t the case either,” said Josephine County Sheriff Gil Gilbertson.
After sheriff Gilbertson’s previous requests for additional funding were turned down, the commissioners approved the use of $655,000 out of the county’s contingency funds — which, in total, holds around three million dollars.
“So, at some point you just say ‘well, we’re going to feed out the last of what we have and hope for something,” said Josephine County Commissioner Simon Hare.
Commissioners said they’re “all in” for this coming fiscal year, even though they know federal support will dwindle even further in 2015 & 2016
“We’re not anticipating any new legislation to provide for that, and so we are going to rely on our property tax revenue, which is right around 3.7 million dollars and whatever kinds of reserves we have to operate the public safety system,” said Hare.
Critics spoke at the meeting, saying this is proof the county has had money for patrols the whole time. Commissioner Hare said the critics are partially right, but that money is in the form of contingency funds and once that piggy bank is empty, it’s empty.
“The time of discussing what it’s going to look like when we hit that cliff is next year. That’s the sheer reality of it. We haven’t been in this type of a situation before,” said Hare.
Patrols will change from one, 8-hour shift five days a week, to one, 12-hour shift seven days a week.
Sheriff Gilbertson said the timetable for when the patrols will be moved to 7 days a week depends on how quickly they can train the new dispatchers.