“The residents of Hayden recognized the need for greater public safety in their city,” said Kootenai County Sheriff Bob Norris. “I am pleased to have the community's support as we continue to provide safety and keep the peace.”
The approval of the levy means that for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1, 2023, the Hayden budget will increase by $543,843 to cover an additional six sheriff's deputies assigned to Hayden.
That would accommodate more than one deputy on duty in the city so deputies will have backup for improved safety, and fully fund one school resource officer.
“With this passage, we'll begin the next steps of our public safety efforts,” said Hayden Mayor Scott Forssell. “We'll be working with the sheriff's department during the upcoming fiscal year to implement this directive and get more officers on the ground.”
In April, the Hayden City Council commissioned an independent citizen task force to objectively review the Hayden police force and its recommendations were urgently in support of an immediate levy.
“I'd like to thank the citizens public safety task force for all the time and effort they spent studying the problem and making recommendations to the council,” Forssell said.
There were concerns Hayden citizens could reject a property tax rate increase, but in the end the task force thought it would be best to put the vote to the people, said task force spokesperson Nancy Jones.
“It’s something that I personally believed was needed,” said Ed DePriest, Hayden City Council member. “But I put my faith in the people, in their understanding. The people should make that decision and they did.”
The levy only covers the salaries of the deputies, and Kootenai County will pick up the onboarding costs of training, supplies and vehicle acquisition, Norris said.
Even with the passage, Hayden still has the lowest tax rate in the county.
Citizens will pay $0.16 more per $1,000 of assessed property value, increasing the city's levy rate to $0.71 per $1,000 total. For a home worth $500,000 that would cost the property owner about $81.10 per year.
With the increased staffing, Hayden will no longer draw as much support from the county for incidents that require backup in the city. The dedicated deputies will allow Hayden to be more independent in providing its own public safety.
“I am very pleased that it passed, but even more pleased that our citizens got to vote on it and decide,” said Roger Saterfiel, Hayden City Council member. “There was a lot of misinformation out there and I am glad people saw the truth.”
Following the dissolution of the independent task force, members independently organized a Keep Hayden Safe initiative.
“The Keep Hayden Safe action committee had a late start, but through some extraordinary efforts by many volunteers, business owners and contributors, we were able to provide education to Hayden residents so they could cast informed votes,” Jones said in a statement.
“At the end of the day, it was all about giving Hayden voters a choice, and we believe they made the right one. We are very pleased with the outcome and will continue to provide support to the city of Hayden and the Kootenai County Sheriff's Office however we can.”
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