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Temporary fiscal bridge will keep us safe, buy time

 

David Brock Smith, Curry County Commissioner

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

I feel it is my moral and ethical duty to correspond with you today.  The last 55 days as your commissioner has been a whirlwind of information with much time spent looking into the facts surrounding the financial condition of Curry County.  

I believe we all can agree the county is facing a revenue problem, a lack of federal timber payments that is beyond the scope of my position to control. I never expected the County’s fiscal situation to be as dire as I have found it to be. I have looked at all of the figures, searched for additional cost saving measures while continuing to work on plans to diversify our County’s revenue portfolio so that we may keep taxes low for all of us. The unfortunate situation is that we are out of time and, if something is not done now, the county will not be able to aptly operate its basic public safety services including the Sheriff’s Office, DA’s Office, Jail, Parole and Probation and Juvenile Department. In addition, Building and Planning, Clerk’s Office (Recording and Elections) and Assessment and Taxation services will be greatly hindered. 

Many funding scenarios were researched; such as a sales tax combination for choice and multiple options investigated, although we have constraints and guidelines under election law to follow. The proposed funding solution we have worked on is fair and the split rate figures are based on the percentages of Public Safety Services used within the individual departments. The funding from the proposed levy will go solely to fund Law Enforcement Services for the citizens of Curry County. The passage of the proposed levy will also mean our combined property tax rate would still be the third lowest in the State of Oregon. 

I would also like to inform you that in 2007 the number of County employees was 200; today there are only 99 employees of the county and the majority of these employees, like you, have not seen an increase in wages or a cost of living increase since 2009, with some exception to law enforcement personnel, and the commissioners have taken a pay cut. I say this as I believe your county employees understand the struggling times we are all facing and through these challenging times they are working diligently for you. 

I believe we can agree the federal fiscal mess that is occurring sends a message that there will be no federal timber payments coming to our financial aid but, if there are any funds, language in the ballot title states the amount leveed to the people will be reduced. 

I do appreciate my colleague Commissioner Brown’s position of forming Permanent Tax Districts to fund Public Safety Services, although I cannot support her position of a permanent tax to all of you at this time for a number of reasons. First, these Permanent Tax Districts take over a year to form and we will be unable to operate basic public safety and county services after July. This is the very reason for the immediate and temporary levy. More importantly, I cannot support Commissioner Brown’s position of a Permanent Tax to our citizens until after we have time to look at and for all other revenue possibilities first. I prefer our current proposal of a five-

year funding solution to build a fiscal bridge, giving us the necessary time to vet and exhaust all other revenue possibilities to fund Public Safety and services. 

I took this office having the belief that we can utilize our natural resources to generate the revenue needed to fund the services to our citizens. I am currently working on the plans I have presented and am making progress in diversifying the county’s revenue portfolio with these resources so that we can lessen the taxation burden to our citizens. I hope you understand that these plans take time to develop and move forward, and time is something we do not have. 

The proposed funding solution is fair and will build the fiscal bridge needed to not only fund our Law Enforcement Services but also allow the necessary time to institute our plans to generate revenue and keep your taxes at a minimum level. 

Please visit our website at www.co.curry.or.us. On our website is a Law Enforcement Levy calculator that will show your approximate tax increase to fund Public Safety Services based on the assessed value of your property. 

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