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A Taxing Ordeal For Curry County

By Steven Sandberg

CURRY COUNTY, Ore. — Cash-strapped Curry County now doubts it will be able to put a new tax on the November ballot. County commissioners say it’s another blow as the county faces a multi-million dollar budget gap.

Southern Oregon communities have not been kind to the idea of taxes over the years. Curry County is now finding that out, as it looks for ways avoid more financial problems. Curry county Commissioner Bill Waddle says he now doubts a new tax will be put on the November ballot, to make up for a $3 million budget gap.

“I’d say it’s 50-50 at best. There just doesn’t seem to be a resolve, a commitment by just about anybody,” Waddle says.

He said a tax was important to help save services like the sheriff’s office. A new timber payments extension will only get the county a million dollars.

“That’s not a lot of money. Especially when the shortfall is 3 million dollars plus,” Waddle explains. “The bottom line is that it just confuses the voters even more. ‘Oh well, the federal government is bailing you out again. You don’t need any money. Why are you trying to get us to tax ourselves?'”

Southern Oregon has had mixed reactions to new taxes. Josephine County shot down a public safety levy this year, but Ashland’s 5% food tax has been in place since 1992.

“About $2 million in revenue per year,” states Ashland Finance Director, Lee Tuneberg. “Since 1992 through last year, we received over 28 million dollars.”

All of that money pays for parks and the wastewater treatment plant.
“We’re all enjoying that, and it’s good for both city and parks, and the community,” Tuneberg says.

But for Curry County, a lack of support and a lack of time means a short-term solution could be off the table. Commissioner Waddle says he plans on getting more input from the community and county leaders, and will bring up the idea of a tax again at the next meeting in two weeks.