Committee tries, but finds no magic ideas

By The Curry Coastal Pilot February 04, 2012 05:23 am

 

Give the special Citizens’ Committee credit for trying, but we didn’t expect it to find any magic solutions to Curry County’s budget crisis, and it didn’t. 

Of the 19 recommendations, many run up against three general roadblocks: They aren’t allowed under current state law, they can’t be enacted in time for the next fiscal year, or they don’t even begin to cover the $3 million shortfall.

Local sales tax? We doubt the rules could be hammered out, approved by voters and then implemented any time soon. After all, this is Oregon, where voters have turned down sales taxes time after time after time. Nine times, to be exact.

Transient room tax? State law says it could only be levied outside city limits (basically Harbor and Agness), and 70 percent of the funds must go to tourism promotion.

Go to volunteer commissioners with a paid administrator? Perhaps, but it isn’t nearly enough savings, nor is there enough time to write a new charter and get voter approval.

Combine law enforcement services with the cities? Again, doing it right takes time and approval from three city councils and their voters.

Add or increase county license fees? Certainly, but we doubt they could raise $3 million.

Sell or lease county assets? The Floras Lake golf proposal didn’t go well. Or does anyone really want to buy a leaky courthouse with a crumbling jail?

Add more lay members to the county budget committee? Not allowed under state law, but anyone is welcome at meetings.

Finally, the committee admitted that a “modest” property tax increase needs to be presented to voters, but not until November so that there’s more time to lay out the details to voters. 

Remember: Property taxes are the way most Oregonians pay for these services. The average Oregonian pays $167 a year in property tax for county services; Curry County residents pay only $60. Even going halfway to the state average would solve Curry County’s crisis. 

The question, of course, is whether voters will be receptive.