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Voters reject Polk County public safety levy

November 06, 2013

POLK COUNTY -- Polk County officials were disappointed -- and shocked at the margin of defeat -- after voters soundly rejected a four-year tax levy to fund the public safety department during Tuesday's vote-by-mail special election.

Polk County District Attorney Aaron Felton said he was surprised after recent polling and a phone call campaign gave generally positive feedback on the levy. Poll results released in October had the levy passing by a 60 percent to 40 percent margin, nearly the opposite of Tuesday's results, with `no' votes at 58 percent to 42 percent voting 'yes.'

"I allowed myself to get optimistic because of that feedback," he said. "I'm disappointed that we didn't get the result we were hoping for."

The measure would have levied up to 60 cents per $1,000 on assessed value on properties, providing up to $3 million to restore positions and services lost to budget cuts as the county's timber revenues declined beginning in 2008.

Polk County Sheriff Bob Wolfe was equally dismayed at the vote.

"I thought we did a great job getting the facts out to voters and being realistic about the situation," he said.

Felton and Wolfe said the result of the failed levy will be more cut backs. Both say it's too early to know just how much will need to be reduced, but it's safe to stay there will be fewer patrol deputies and reductions in minor crime prosecutions, they noted.

Felton said announcements about changes in his office may be made in the coming weeks. Wolfe said cuts in his office will be made during the next fiscal year.

"I'm going to have to do more layoffs next July," Wolfe said. "There is no money, no ability to replace the O&C (timber) funds."

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