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Ballot Battle in Curry County

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GOLD BEACH, Ore. — With Election Day about a week and a half away, voters are starting to make decisions about some major money measures. Two of the most serious are public safety levies in Josephine and Curry counties.

A five-year levy on the Curry County ballot is billed as an effort to maintain local control over public safety agencies, and, if you talk to county commissioners, may actually have a decent chance of passing.

Curry County Commissioners reviewed the county’s five year tax levy at a workshop session Wednesday. The levy is considered a stop-gap measure to preserve basic public safety services.

Board Chairman David Brock Smith says it should be a stepping stone to a permanent solution. He cited a letter from State Senator Jeff Kruze and Representative Wayne Krieger.

“The current ballot measure is a hard one to support, because it is asking more of the citizens of Curry County to solve a problem they did not create. The fact is we have run out of time,” Smith said.

Then he asked fellow board members to support moving towards a permanent fix with tax districts.

“Yes, I’m in favor of looking at a permanent solution,” said Curry County Commissioner Susan Brown. “I have never not been in favor of looking at a permanent solution.”

“I absolutely support us beginning work toward a more permanent solution,” said Curry County Commissioner David Itzen. “And I agree with your assessment that it will take several years to accomplish.”

We found one man who would not talk on camera, but says it would be better for the county to move to take over federally managed timberlands, rather than putting the burden on taxpayers. But a member of the political action committee says there’s little choice but to pass the levy.

“It would be so dire here, that you’d have a county that had no law enforcement on the road, other than the cities,” said Jan Kaplan, a PAC Member. “And you would have a jail that would be probably not operational.”

Several counties in Southern Oregon have public safety levies on the ballot. Josephine county and Curry county being the prime examples. If those levies don’t pass there is a great fear among many people that the state would come in and mandate those service, and then charge them, and nobody knows what that cost would be.

Curry County’s current tax rate of 59 cents per thousand assessed is the second lowest of any county in Oregon, second lowest to that of Josephine County. In-town residents would pay an additional $1.84 cents per thousand for five years. Rural residents would pay a $1.97 rate.