By BROOKE SNAVELY
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
Deschutes County budget discussions continue this week.
Thursday, the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office requested a $49 million dollar budget for next year – 7% more than the current operating budget.
But the meeting briefly included talk of a major purchase that won’t be made.
“What I really want people to know is we are not buying a helicopter,” said Cpt. Daren McMaster. “What we are doing is studying the subject. We are doing our due diligence.”
McMaster says discussions about a helicopter to support search and rescue operations have been going on for years.
“There’s difficult terrain to get to. A lot of people like to recreate on South Sister, Middle Sister and in the back country so sometimes it’s really difficult to get to those places quickly. We also have high angle rescues at Smith Rock State Park. In some of those scenarios, a helicopter could help us rescue somebody fairly quickly.”
McMaster says any actual proposal to purchase a helicopter would require formal discussions between the sheriff, county commissioners and the public.
No formal discussions have occurred, nor are any planned.
Right now Sheriff Shane Nelson says he’s focused on securing a budget that maintains 190 sworn deputies who serve in the patrol, investigation and jail divisions.
“We always want to be mindful that this pandemic is going to have an effect on transient room taxes which the commission is great about using toward our office operations,” Sheriff Nelson said. “We might see a reduction in state revenue. We are preparing for those impacts and we feel like we are still in a good financial position.”
The sheriff says there are reserves that can be used to cover budget shortfalls, at least in the short-term.
How much money will actually be available to fund county services, such as the sheriff’s office, won’t be known until November when homeowners begin paying property taxes.