December 26, 2013
When budget woes reduced the sheriff’s department in one rural Oregon county to a bare-bones force, residents decided to take matters into their own hands — creating armed patrol groups in defiance of local officials.
Their decision has raised safety concerns with the county government, which would prefer residents instead hike their own taxes to fund the hiring of trained deputies. But despite the risks, the move stands as a unique, some would say innovative, response to one of the country’s most severe local budget crunches.
The government in Josephine County, where nearly 70 percent of the land is owned by the U.S. government, had long relied on federal timber subsidies to pay the bills. When the feds terminated the funds, county officials scrambled to pass a May 2012 tax levy to make up a nearly $7.5 million budget shortfall.