Let it expire.

Today, I got this interesting postcard in the mail.

Here in the wild-and-wooly Territory of Clackamas County, we have a levy on property taxes that pays for the Sheriff’s Department. Since I live in the incorporated City of Oregon City, and in an apartment, we can debate how much I really need to care about this issue, at least in the abstract.

But what I find interesting is that the Sheriff’s Department just spent a good chunk of change to tell me they .. um .. need more chunks of change.

Let’s do the math on this one. Clackamas County has (according to the US Census’ 2007 estimate) around 140,000 households. Based upon how this was addressed (“Postal Customer”), it’s pretty safe to assume that this postcard went to every household in Clackamas County, or at least a vast majority of them. (EDIT: it also appeared in my Post Office Box in Milwaukie as well, which tells me that my 140,000-piece estimate is actually a low-ball figure). Let’s assume that the cost of producing the postcards, printing them, and mailing out 140,000 of them ran the Good Sheriff 50¢ per postcard. 140,000x.50=$70,000.

Perhaps a mere drop in the bucket compared to the $10 million the postcard claims will be raised by this levy in the 2013 tax year.

But it does raise the question of where else the Sheriff’s Department is using taxpayer resources in a fashion that might be deemed “questionable,” or at least for purposes other than legitimate law enforcement. $70,000 would pay a significant amount of a rookie deputy’s salary.

Thanks, Sheriff. You just ensured my vote will be “no.” Find a better way of financing your Posse.

6 thoughts on “Let it expire.

  1. Speaking as someone who used to work for a mass mailer, the cost per piece (including postage) is actually more like .5 cents (if it’s gloss. If not, .1 cent is closer to it). Yes, I do mean 1 tenth of a cent per.

    So your mailings cost around 140,000 x .3 = 42,000. Still allot of money, but much less then you think.

    • Actually, I checked into this somewhat. I don’t know what mass mailer you worked for, but according to stats I was able to collect, a three-color glossy litho would have cost 5¢ per, 15¢ per if a union shop (which I believe is required for a government agency) was used for the printing, for 100,000-250,000 pieces, mailed in this fashion.

      I was also calculating the costs of having it designed and laid up.

      Also, what you quote doesn’t add up. The USPS must disclose all their rates. The cheapest price I can find on their rate card for bulk mail, machinable, presorted, is 5 cents per item. If you can find a lower rate, please let me know: but I’m going to call BS on this one.

  2. Well, if this was a general fund-raising request, I can follow your logic. But this is a levy that needs a certain percentage of people to vote on it in order to pass. And this postcard serves the critical need of educating the voters as to what this measure, cryptically called “3-378”, means.

    So it comes down to two scenarios:
    1) They don’t send out the postcards, save the estimated $70k, the voters know nothing, the levy fails, and the sheriff’s office has $70,000 of usable funds.

    2) They send out the postcards, costing themselves $70k, the voters are educated and see why this make sense, vote for it, the levy passes, and the sheriff’s office has $9,930,000 of usable funds. ($10M – 70k)

    Clearly the latter makes sense, and the cost of the postcards is worth the 0.7% of lost budget because it totally pays for itself.

    If only 0.7% of the goverment funds are being used for “questionable” things and otherwise provide the valuable services that a sheriff’s office performs, that to me seems like a pretty trivial loss compared to many of the true pork barrel programs out there.

    I live in Multnomah county, otherwise I would have voted “yes” for this one…

    • I actually was leaning towards “no” for other reasons.. but this kinda nailed it for me.

      The Sheriff’s Department is a basic service. It should be paid for out of the county’s general fund, not by a special levy. Additionally, some of the programs the levy goes towards I have ethical problems with (“drug enforcement”).

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