GOLD BEACH – Curry County commissioners will hold a special meeting at 11 a.m. Wednesday to discuss placing a tax on the November general election after a member of the Citizen’s Advisory Committee pledged at this week’s meeting that he and others would support the measure.
Commissioners early this month said they believed there should be a tax vote in November, but they wouldn’t place it on the ballot without support.
Brookings resident Bob Horel spoke to the commissioners on Wednesday, saying the committee worked hard to analyze the financial situation of Curry County.
“We provided you with many well researched recommendations,” Horel said.
“While there was some differences of opinion on a number of the recommendations, there was no person on the committee who expressed the belief that Curry County could continue as a viable provider of mandated services without additional revenue,” he said.
“In reviewing the committee’s recommendations, the board has expressed a preference for the sales tax. I was part of the minority of the committee that did not support that recommendation,” he said.
“However, the county needs revenue. As the elected leadership of the county, I will support your decision. You can start the process for a sales tax, a property tax increase, or a combination of both. What the county cannot accept is inaction to secure the revenue required by law and the Constitution of Oregon,” Horel said.
“I want to reassure you that if you take the lead in securing the needed revenue, I and many other community members will support your proposal and actively work to educate the voters on the need for the revenue,” he said.
At a county budget meeting to be held an hour before the special meeting, the commissioners are scheduled to approve a budget worked out by the county’s Budget Committee that would take $350,000 from the vehicle replacement fund, $700,000 from the County Road fund and $450,000 from the county’s working capital to keep the county operational until July 1, 2013. But officials say the county cannot function after that without another source of revenue.
After Commissioners Bill Waddle and George Rhodes failed to make the runoffs following the May Primary Election, they blamed it on their proposal for a new tax. All other candidates had opposed more taxes.
Before the election, commissioners were working on a proposed 3 percent sales tax measure that would have exempted a long list of items, including groceries and prescription drugs. The state Department of Revenue and Oregon Legislative Revenue Officer Paul D. Warner have predicted that the 3 percent sales tax, even with a long list of exemptions, would raise $5.04 million a year for Curry County.
Commissioners believed that tax would not have enough support for passage without others in the community pushing it.
Then, this week, one of the other candidates who had opposed any tax increase and made the runoffs to be held in the November election, said under certain circumstances he would support a sales tax.
“The measure as written ... is extremely confusing,” said Greg Empson of Gold Beach, who will face Susan Brown in a runoff election for commissioner.
“I believe a better idea would have been an across the board 1 percent sales tax with no exemptions,” Empson said.
He said he would support that 1 percent tax if certain budget cuts were made first.
Commission Chair David Itzen on Thursday said that commissioners would consider how to handle a tax proposal on Wednesday.
“But 1 percent won’t do it, not even a 1 percent across the board,” Itzen said.
He said he is asking the state to run figures to see if it could get close.
Itzen said the commission needs to get to work to put any tax measure on the ballot because of state election requirements.
“To make this possible, we really have to begin work on it soon, to place at least one proposal on the ballot,” he said.
“We could place more than one then, depending on the results, have one more opportunity in March,” Itzen said. “There’s a number of vehicles if passed, the problem is over. If it fails by a narrow amount, there’s still time to adjust.”