Bob Horel supports a proposed property tax heading for the May ballot and he plans to create a political action committee (PAC) with the goal of educating voters why they should support it, too.
The PAC will be formed to collect money so the volunteers can inform voters about the tax — and more importantly in Horel’s mind, the ramifications of not having it in place.
Horel, a former prison warden who sits on the Brookings-Harbor School District, is particularly worried about potential impacts to schools and other taxing districts that might not receive prompt payments from a dysfunctional or insolvent county, if the measure were to fail.
“How are we going to get correct assessments on property?” he posited. “What’s going to happen if people don’t pay their taxes, and there’s no one to enforce it? Even if you’re able to get taxes in, is (money) going to be very, very late going out to the special districts? How are we going to cut paychecks?”
Horel served on the county’s Citizens Committee, the group that narrowed more than 100 ideas to 19 presented to the county as possible means by which to solve its fiscal challenges.
“We did an awful lot of work there,” he said. “I was convinced we needed to do something or we wouldn’t have a county. It would be a disaster in terms of our services.”
The county commissioners — at the time David Itzen, George Rhodes and Bill Waddle — said they vetted the ideas, but none rose to the top.
“Nothing happened for awhile, so I went to them at a meeting and said, ‘We need to do something; I’d be willing to help. I know others willing to step up,’” Horel said. “They took me up on it.”
Horel has since spoken with the Secretary of State, who told him political action committees (PACs) must be set up within three days after a ballot question title is approved. Tuesday, county commissioners voted 2-1, with Commissioner Susan Brown voting against it, to put a tax levy question on the May 21 ballot. It takes about three days for the state to approve the title and then Horel’s work can begin.
“It’s good that the commissioners have stepped up,” Horel said. “It’s difficult, politically, to talk about taxes. They’re wise and very courageous.”
Many agree Horel’s got his work cut out for him.
The ballot question asks for a property tax increase of $1.84 per $1,000 assessed valuation for those living within city limits, and $1.97 for those in unincorporated Curry County. Currently the tax rate here is 59 cents per $1,000 valuation — the second lowest in the state.
The proposed differentiated tax rates would remain second-lowest in the state. Horel pointed out that the median tax rate in Oregon is more than double the proposed rate.
“It’s an educational issue,” he said. “This is no ordinary kind of campaign. If people understand the issue, it’s clear they should vote ‘yes’ on it. But it’s hard to convey the issue.”
Some ideas to get the message out might include talking to business owners, civic groups and professional associations; creating brochures and erecting signs.
He knows there are voters who are vehemently against any kind of tax increase. They’ve proved it, time and time again, in other elections.
“It may be some people don’t want to have a county,” Horel said. “We virtually have no county today. This is not any kind of elegant or extravagant, fat government. This (tax) would just put back the basic stuff.”
He has people lined up who are willing to help create the PAC, hit the streets, hold meetings and answer questions.
“It’s going to be a lot of work, but I think it’s very, very important,” Horel said. “I don’t know what else we’re going to do. Will the courts step in, the state? That will cost a lot more money; I guarantee that.