Sheriff Dave Daniel gave a presentation hosted by Illinois Valley Chamber of Commerce at Wild River Pizza Oct. 20 that outlined his idea to create a Josephine County Law Enforcement Service District. If successful, this plan, which will be presented to the voters on the November ballot, would rely on an increase in property taxes to keep the Josephine County Sheriff’s Office running once federal funding runs out.
Sheriff Daniel made it clear at the start of his presentation that his intention was to educate and inform the Chamber, rather than push any sort of agenda, but also emphasized that his department is in dire need of help from the community to continue functioning past the summer of 2025. He explained that the proposal was drafted by a civilian-led coalition for safety, and that it had also received support from members of the Josephine County Board of Commissioners.
The first question, naturally, was why a law enforcement service district is even necessary for the area. Sheriff Daniel explained that despite the fact that the sheriff’s office received 13 million dollars in funding in 2008, over the last 15 years that number has been in a steady decline, citing that the funding received in 2021 fell to just under $3 million. Daniel is concerned that, when the recently received federal ARPA grant runs out in June 2025, the sheriff’s office will not be able to continue providing services to the more rural parts of Josephine County.
“We would be in a different place right now if not for the ARPA grant.” Daniel explained, adding that “we got lucky,” in terms of acquiring that last minute source of funding.
Daniel’s proposed solution to this problem is to implement a measure that would increase property taxes to 0.99 cents per $1,000 of taxpayers assessed property value. Although the city of Grants Pass opted out of becoming a part of the service district, the district is set to include the Illinois Valley, the Williams/Murphy areas, Merlin, Colonial Valley, Wolf Creek and Sunny Valley.
In Cave Junction alone, Daniel explained, there is an average assessed property value of $111, 200, with those numbers likely to increase to around $117,972 by 2024. This would mean that the average tax increase would equate to around $116.79 for Cave Junction residents. Daniel explained that the funds accumulated through this tax increase would not necessarily increase service, but would serve as a way for the sheriff’s office to continue operating at it’s existing level of functionality. If there is any excess funding, that money will be used solely by the sheriff’s office and diverted to the appropriate channels.
Regarding oversight, Daniel mentioned that a city advisory panel should be compiled of at least members representing the different geographical locations included in the service district. Those involved in this panel would be presented with the yearly budget and approve it or discuss any re-allocation of funding that may be needed. From there, the budget would go to the budget committee for further approval. There would also be an annual external audit to ensure that all funds are going to the relevant operations.
If this measure does not pass, Daniel emphasized that there is an extreme likelihood that the sheriff’s office would need to reduce their service levels and hours of coverage. He warned that it is entirely possible that his department would only be able to respond to life-threatening calls for service. Daniel cited public safety as being his No. 1 concern.
“This is a very important issue to our community that affects economic growth, tourism and overall livability. I want people to remember our children and our elderly, the most vulnerable demographics in this community. When something happens in our schools after that bell rings, we need to go there.” Daniel explained.
If the measure passes, and the service district is approved by voters, Daniel once again stated that although the tax increase is meant to stabilize funding for the JCSO’s existing level of service, if things go well the sheriff’s office may have the ability to increase their funding for detectives and other resources that the department is currently lacking.
The presentation was followed by a short Q&A session, and although there were a few voices of dissent amongst the crowd, many who spoke up understood the tight spot that the sheriff’s office is currently in and would like to help them jump over this hurdle to continue to provide services to rural Josephine County residents.