Fiscal Integrity

Polk County enjoys a long history of providing high quality services in a budget-efficient manner. These services broadly include public works, public safety and criminal justice, emergency management, health and human services, family and community outreach, community and economic development, county management, assessors’ office, and county clerk services.

In order to continue providing these services at high levels, we should properly budget for market fluctuations in response to inflationary pressures and workforce recruitment and retention needs while maximizing benefits from our state and federal partners.

We should continue to leverage federal American Rescue Plan and Covid Relief Fund dollars with state and local partners. The Board of Commissioners has identified a range investments appropriate for these one-time funds that include: rural broadband expansion, emergency communications equipment, child care, business relief grants, infrastructure, suicide prevention, a new resource center, water resilience planning, and additional Mobile Crisis Response Units (behavioral health and law enforcement teams).

Polk County voters approved a public safety levy in 2015 and again in 2019 to ensure adequate staffing in the Sheriff’s Office, District Attorney’s Office, and Community Corrections. With our permanent tax rate capped at 1.716% and reductions in timber revenue, we must periodically ask voters to support additional investment in critical services.

Economic Development

Business Support: Recent market disruptions make it even more critical that we commit to the retention, expansion, and recruitment of businesses in all sectors of the Polk County economy. As a business support community, we must ensure that all businesses have access to existing partner resources such as Indy Idea Hub, Willamette Workforce Partnership, Chemeketa’s Small Business Development Center and Center for Business & Industry, Oregon Manufacturing Extension Partnership, Business Oregon, Chambers of Commerce, and SEDCOR.

Polk County invests lottery fund dollars to help support business expansion and job creation efforts via a competitive grant process. It is critical that these dollars are invested in innovative, market and community-responsive ways to help entrepreneurs and businesses meet the needs of our local economy.

Broadband – The pandemic response has revealed major gaps in broadband services that we rely on for education, telehealth, work, business management, and staying connected to loved ones. In response, Polk County awarded grants to two ISP providers to expand fiber and fixed wireless services to underserved rural areas. Jeremy will continue to advocate for additional state and federal broadband investments in Polk County.

Agriculture/Timber – Family farms, ranches, dairies and agricultural manufacturers and innovators are central to Polk County’s economic future. We must support tools and solutions that help our family ag businesses stay viable and competitive as they face increasingly tight margins. Jeremy looks forward to working with family farms and other industry partners as an advocate.

Timber jobs and revenues for trust counties like Polk have fallen in recent decades due to a variety of reasons including particular applications of the Forest Acquisition Act and elimination of the severance tax. This has placed pressure on forest trust counties and their special districts to find funding for public safety, road maintenance, healthcare, education, emergency services, libraries, and other essential services. It is critical that we continue our advocacy for fair timber payments from the state/federal governments and large timber operations, while diversifying our economic base in order to adequately fund basic services into the future. Timber harvesting can co-exist with values such as protecting surface water quality, fish habitat, outdoor recreation, conservation, and others.

Emergency Management

Polk County serves a key role in the mitigation and management of emergencies. We must engage our cities, state agencies, FEMA, and rural communities to maintain a robust emergency management network. Polk County recently invested $2million in a digital communication upgrade for use by our fire and police departments, public works, and community development professionals to ensure robust communication capacity throughout the chain of command.

Transportation and Infrastructure

As a former mayor, Jeremy has extensive experience with water and wastewater projects and planning . Polk County is currently engaged in a water resilience project involving a water right the county holds and strategies to share that water source with districts and municipalities. Regional approaches to infrastructure planning are essential as once-in-a-lifetime infrastructure investments enter our communities.

Attention to traffic safety is paramount as our population grows. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act funds distribution formula ought to mirror the longstanding distribution for the State Highway Fund (50 percent state, 30 percent counties, 20% cities) but there is no guarantee this will be achieved. The Board of Commissioners will continue to work with ODOT toward safety improvements in our most accident prone intersections including OR99W and Clow Corner, the Highway 22 Corridor, and Kings Valley and Highway 22.

Living in Polk County

Outdoor recreation/tourism – Shopping, bicycling, and outdoor recreation strengthen our local economies and ensure a high quality of life. Polk County’s vast landscape of wineries, farm stands, restaurants, main street businesses, rivers and forests are some of the best in the state. Jeremy will continue his involvement with tourism groups and chambers of commerce to preserve and expand these quality of life assets as your commissioner.

Housing – The 2020 US Census confirmed what we all understand; that Polk County is one of the fastest growing counties in the state. Soaring rents and property values from West Salem to the West Valley are placing tremendous pressure on workers and families. Housing is simply unaffordable for so many working people across income brackets. And employers are feeling the crunch as our housing inventories are not able to support an adequate workforce. Jeremy has served on the Board of Directors of a local affordable housing development nonprofit for over five years and they have significantly increased affordable housing units in Polk County while placing recent emphasis on veterans housing. There is so much more work to be done as the state of Oregon invests more dollars in affordable housing solutions.

In addition, houselessness is a growing risk in rural Polk County. In order to prevent the chronic homelessness we are seeing in our urban areas, it is critical that we work toward prevention strategies informed by local partners and needs. In partnership with our small cities and the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, Jeremy helped lead the way for Polk County’s inclusion in a state-funded pilot program addressing our coordinated homelessness response. House Bill 4123 will provide Polk County with $1million to address its rural homelessness challenges.

Childcare: As a parent of a young child, Jeremy understands the difficulty of finding quality and affordable childcare. Unfortunately, Polk County is a childcare desert with only 8% of families with pre-K children accessing licensed childcare. Due to the pandemic, half of Oregon’s facilities closed. Nationally, over 863,000 women dropped out of the work force vs. 168,000 men in order to care for children.

Polk County invested CRF funds issuing grants to increase the number of licensed, in-home childcare providers in the area. Polk County also partnered with the Community Development Block Grant Program to help qualified working families pay for child care services during this difficult time. Further ARPA investments, leveraged with forthcoming state investments, can assist Polk County families with additional child care options.