The future of the John Day Police Department remains uncertain as questions on funding persist.
The John Day City Council discussed on March 23 two possible routes the city could pursue for policing in John Day: entering a law enforcement services agreement with the Grant County Sheriff’s Office or seeking a local levy to fund the department.
City Manager Nick Green said, if the city wants to recruit a new chief after Chief Mike Durr retires this year, the city would need to request a five-year local option levy — between 10 and 15 cents per $1,000 of assessed value — to fund the department.
Green said the levy is necessary because the city lacks the money to sustain the department unless they come up with another revenue source, or cuts are made to personnel.
Police department expenditures have grown in the past 20 years, far outpacing the sources of revenue funding the department, according to graphs presented by Green.
Green said future costs — an incoming collective bargaining agreement, aging vehicles in need of replacement over the next five years, hiring a new police chief and legislation in Oregon — all present cost increases in the next fiscal year, which concerns him.
“What we have seen over the past two decades (in expenditures) is pretty consistent price escalation that significantly outpaces our revenue,” Green said. “The gap that we’re trying to close from 20 years ago, which was just a little over $100,000, today has grown to a little over $400,000. All the while, we lost 300 residents.”
If the city were to pursue a local tax, it would need to be approved by voters in John Day.
Green said he spoke with Grant County Sheriff Todd McKinley to see what a law enforcement services agreement would look like. The city would be required to cover the costs of the staff members that would be repositioned, two full-time officers and a full-time sergeant, for the first year, he said, and the county would request the city pays for four full-time positions.
“I’ll just relay what Todd told me, the county expects us to pay for four (full-time officers),” Green said.
No decision was made, but the council said it would be important to continue talking with members of the community to see how they feel about both options. They discussed holding a study session with McKinley and possibly the county commissioners.
“One or the other thing is going to happen, and it’s going to happen this fall,” Green said. “But I need to know by the end of next month if we’re recruiting for a new chief or if we’re going to pursue the transition option.”
Durr was not present at the city council meeting for comments.