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Voters approve public safety levy by huge margin

Tuesday's vote approved by an almost 3-to-1 margin of victory

Washington County public safety services — from jail operations to the only shelter for survivors of domestic violence — have been assured of five more years of support from county property taxes.

Voters approved Measure 34-236 by an almost 3-to-1 margin, according to unofficial returns compiled Tuesday by the county Elections Division.

That’s good news for Sara Wade, executive director of the Domestic Violence Resource Center of Washington County, which operates Monika's House.Washington County Sheriff's Office

“We bring in there the people in the most imminent danger,” Wade said. “The worst-case scenario is that it would close. But we do not have to contemplate that now. We thank the voters for keeping Monika’s House open.”

Given the county’s acute shortage of affordable housing, and that 80 to 90 people are turned away every month after screening, Wade said there is no alternative to the shelter for survivors of domestic violence.

It’s one of the programs funded by Measure 34-236, which maintains a property tax rate of 42 cents per $1,000 of taxable property value for the five years starting July 1, 2016. The rate is unchanged from the current five-year period.

Washington County has had a special levy to support public safety services since 2000.

For the owner of a home with an assessed value of $255,408 — the market value presumably is greater — the levy would cost $107 annually, or about $9 per month.

The levy allows for some growth that is tied to annual increases in the taxable value of property. For most homeowners, that figure is 3 percent.

The current measure provides approximately 17 percent of the dollars spent by public safety agencies.

Among the countywide services supported by the levy, in addition to Monika’s House, are operations of the jail in Hillsboro, prosecution of criminal suspects, parole and probation for offenders, services for juvenile offenders, and specialized teams for crash reconstruction, crisis response and mental health.

Andy Duyck, chairman of the Washington County commissioners, said the margins of victory for both the public safety levy and a library operations levy were impressive.

“What it really says is that these issues people are voting on have become core services to them,” he said Tuesday night.

“We started out with strong support, but you never know what the mood of the public is going to be so this is just great.”

An advocacy committee separate from county government, Citizens for a Safe Community, obtained endorsements from city councils, chambers of commerce and other groups.

“The times that measures failed in the past, we found it was usually because we did not run much of a campaign and did not get our message out,” Duyck said.

Sheriff Pat Garrett and District Attorney Bob Hermann also campaigned for its passage.

At a presentation on Sept. 28 at the Washington County Public Affairs Forum, Garrett said police recognize that their effectiveness relies on their ability to team up with other public safety agencies.

“We know that if we make an arrest, it does no good if there are not sufficient prosecution and parole and probation services in the end,” he said.

Hermann made the same point at the forum.

“We do not recognize city boundaries in prosecution services,” he said. “If a crime occurs, that case comes to my office.”