Tuesday, March 21, 2023
March 21, 2023

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Several Clark County councilors bemoan Prop. 10’s woes

Lentz, Olson, Medvigy vow to continue to seek funds for dash, bodycams

By , Columbian staff writer

Several members of the Clark County Council say they aren’t surprised that voters have apparently rejected Proposition 10, a complicated funding strategy aimed at paying for body and dash cameras for the sheriff’s office.

“I don’t think that Measure 10 was transparent enough for people to fully understand what they were voting for. That is part of why it failed. We can be more transparent,” said Councilor Temple Lentz.

The ballot language for Proposition 10 said it would create a sales and use tax of 0.1 percent to fund juvenile detention facilities and jails, but the real goal of the proposition was not mentioned on the ballot: to free up money in the county’s budget to pay for the body and dash cam program.

Election results posted Wednesday showed the ballot measure with 37,924 votes against and 29,443 votes in favor. That could change, though. The county still has 45,000 ballots left to count, which should be completed over the next two to three days.

Councilor Gary Medvigy said he has been advocating to find funding for body and dash cameras for the sheriff’s office for at least the last two years. Medvigy is also chair of the county Law and Justice Council advisory board.

“We found there was universal support among the police chiefs and the sheriff. And the prosecuting attorney and the courts were joining in,” Medvigy said. “And the county council is ready to come along.”

Despite the consensus across agencies and departments, finding funding became a roadblock.

Medvigy said he approached fellow councilors and County Manager Kathleen Otto with the intent of finding the funding in the budget. He said he wanted to see what each department could cut while still keeping a balanced budget and coming up with the funding needed.

Instead, the council asked Auditor Greg Kimsey and the prosecuting attorney’s office to look at options to present to voters.

The council was given two options: a public safety resolution to implement a 0.1 percent (one-tenth of 1 percent) sales and use tax to be used for “public safety and criminal justice purposes”; or the 0.1 percent sales tax for “juvenile detention facilities and jails” proposition that was eventually placed on the ballot.

Lentz and Councilor Julie Olson voted for the public safety resolution and both said they hope the council will now move in that direction.

“I’m hopeful the council majority will agree that we should pursue that more appropriate option,” Lentz said.

Under this option, the revenue generated by the tax increase would be shared with the cities in the county; the county would receive 60 percent and the cities would receive 40 percent.

“My thought process was this would give us enough money for the program and then some,” Olson said. “And it would provide revenue to the cities for their public safety programs, and possibly bodycams.”

According to an August report prepared for the sheriff’s office, one-time costs for the purchase of body and dash cameras, storage and training is approximately $225,000 to $340,000. Ongoing expenses, including additional staff to support public records requests and the prosecutor’s office, would range from $475,000 to $575,000 per year.

“A huge cost is the government records overhead,” Medvigy said. “Washington state is ridiculously robust in allowing the public to make routine, random and voluminous — and at no cost or very little cost — requests.”

The sales tax increase would have generated about $6 million per year, or a total of $60 million over the 10-year life span of the measure, but would have covered the cost of the program for 30 years.

However, that $60 million far exceeded the total costs over those 30 years, even with inflation factored in.

“I certainly got a number of calls because it was hard to piece together,” Lentz said. “We had an option that was transparent and by not taking that option, we’ve now delayed the bodycam program by a year.”

Updated election results will be posted at www.columbian.com as they become available.