ALBANY — Linn County will place a four-year local option levy of $2.83 per $1,000 of property value on the May 20 primary ballot to support law enforcement.

The board of commissioners approved the action Wednesday morning. If approved by voters, the levy would replace the current levy of $2.58 that was approved in May 2010 and took effect July 1, 2011.

The new levy would replace the current levy oneyear early.

County administrator Ralph Wyatt told commissioners Roger Nyquist, John Lindsey and Will Tucker that the action is being taken to generate enough taxes to re-open a 48-bed wing at the Linn County jail. It also would take the county back to its 2011 level in terms of ability to pay for needed services.

The jail wing was closed in February 2012 in part because the estimated effect of tax compression was greater than anticipated, forcing the Linn County Sheriff’s Office to cut its budget by more than $1 million. The county estimated compression would reduce the actual amount received by about $2.2 million, but in reality, the loss came to about $4.5 million.

This year, compression is about $5 million.

Also, the commissioners want to take advantage of a bill approved by the Legislature in 2013 that ensures money intended for local option levies is designated only for their use. Money collected for local option levies passed by voters after Jan. 1, 2013, no longer can be used to help pay for urban renewal projects in districts that were created before 2001.

In Linn County’s case, passage of the new levy would mean about $350,000 more per year would go directly to the law enforcement budget.

Wyatt said that money, plus the increased tax amount from the increase in the levy, would be enough to re-open the 48-bed wing.

Linn County residents have supported a law enforcement levy for 32 years.

Funds are used to support operation and maintenance of the jail; funding deputies for criminal investigations with patrol and traffic operations; prosecutions of criminals by the District Attorney; and supervision of detention of juvenile offenders by the Juvenile Department.

Over its four-year lifespan, the levy would generate an estimated $101,993,862. By year that would be: 2014: $24,471,320; 2015: $25,205,459; 2016: $25,835,596; and 2017: $26,481,486.

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