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Mindset: Pay your fair share

Curry County, like many rural Oregon counties that no longer receive federal timber subsidies, is teetering on the brink of financial disaster, yet many officials in Salem have little sympathy.

Why?

This letter, penned by State Representative Carolyn Tomei and sent to her peers in Salem earlier this month, sheds light on the issue.

“Colleagues,

I want to draw your attention to a recent Home for Sale in the Oregonian.

Located in Curry County, this home, valued at $16 million dollars, 28 acres, 10,000 Sq. Ft, complete with helipad and beautiful ocean views, has an annual property tax bill of just over $10,000.  There are many, many families in the Portland metro area, with far less valuable homes, paying much more in property taxes. The disparity is enormous.

When reading about the lack of basic services in our rural counties, let’s not forget that voters in those districts have refused to pay for their own services. Their property tax rates are incredibly low. Instead, they want the people of the entire state, who already pay dearly for local services, to pay for rural services as well.

 Before the State shoulders additional costs to service these rural areas, let make sure that ALL local districts pay their fair share.”

This is the mindset that Curry County officials face in Salem and Oregon’s metropolitan areas. Whether it’s true or not, the prevailing perception is, “Curry County must pay its fair share before getting any help.” 

It’s not off base. 

It all comes down to revenue, or lack thereof. Yes, Curry County officials can lay off more people, consolidate more departments and even eliminate commissioners’ pay, but the amount saved by doing so is not going to fill the existing gap between tax revenue and cost of services.

Ultimately, we get the public services we pay for. 

Some Curry County residents don’t care what Salem thinks, but they would be wise to remember that it is Salem that will step in if the county fails.

The $16 million home that Tomei uses is an extreme example, but it does illustrate the perception out there that will ultimately affect what happens to Curry County.

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