GOLD BEACH – Curry County commissioners will work with Portland State University’s Kitchen Table project to determine what kind of tax proposal county voters will see this fall to help keep the county solvent.
Chair David Itzen said commissioners want to make sure the citizens understand what is needed and what it will take to keep the county afloat before putting something on the ballot for the November general election.
“We want to see what kind of tax it will take to get $5 million,” Itzen said.
‘We got the proposal from Portland State’s Kitchen Table project, who wondered if we were interested in having them come down and hold some convention online,” Itzen said. “We voted to embrace that method. It’s entirely grant funded.”
Itzen said the project would cost about $40,000, with the Oregon Community Foundation providing $25,000 and the National Policy Consensus Center another $15,000 from other sources.
“They plan on coming to our area July 6,” he said. “If it’s approved, they’ll be down next week.”
Itzen noted commissioners on Wednesday approved a letter to Max Williams, president and CEO of Oregon Community Foundation of Portland, officially requesting the grant.
“Curry County is one of the most hard-hit counties in Oregon because of the loss of timber revenues, and we face catastrophic public sector budget cuts in fiscal year 2013-2014,” the letter says.
It says that the county has already made deep budget cuts resulting in widespread loss of basic services.
“As we look to the future, we want to have a solid conversation with and among the citizens of our county before we proceed to the ballot with a proposed tax increase,” the letter says.
It says commissioners are considering seeking some type of tax authorization from the voters in November.
“However, we must work toward a goal of providing Curry County citizens with a basic understanding of county services and the budgetary needs of the county. We also need to have a deeper knowledge of the values and opinions of the citizenry,” it says.
“We would like to utilize Oregon’s Kitchen Table as a mechanism to create and implement a budget exercise all residents of Curry County would be asked to weigh in on,” the letter says.
“Last winter and spring, we – with the assistance of Oregon Consensus – convened a small citizen advisory panel to assist us in analyzing the budgetary options for our county. That experience revealed to us that once residents have good information about county government and its budgets, a majority of them do want basic levels of county services to be maintained. In addition, they are willing to explore taxation options to maintain them.”
The letter says the commissioners would like to use Oregon’s Kitchen Table to more broadly engage the county’s citizens in a similar exercise.
“The combination of online and in-person engagement through the Kitchen Table would allow us to reach a large number of our residents during the summer of 2012, in anticipation of making a decision about a tax measure in August of 2012 in order to prepare for a November ballot if appropriate,” the letter says.
The letter says the commissioners understand that the staff of the National Policy Consensus Center has been in contact with Williams and his staff and will provide a more detailed work plan and budget for the project.
“They have 18 counties getting ready to go under,” Itzen said. “Eight are on the edge. Josephine County is already under, Lane County is going under and we’re right behind.”
He said Curry County would be sort of a laboratory for the project.
For part of this, he said the Kitchen Table will ask the Ford Foundation for permission to use the approximately 70 community leaders who have taken their community leader courses to help in getting the county’s woes out to its citizens.
Itzen said time is important as the county needs to have a ballot title and information ready by Aug. 20 to get a tax proposal on the ballot by the general election.