More taxes or cut services

By The Curry Coastal Pilot January 25, 2013 10:17 pm

So how did Curry County’s Kitchen Table discussion turn out?

Residents responding to the Oregon’s Kitchen Table survey clearly understand that county government is in financial trouble, but offered no clear direction on a preferred solution.  As we’ve been reporting for months upon months, the realistic options are pretty clear: Ask voters to approve additional local taxes or completely gut county services for public safety.

That leaves the Curry County Board of Commissioners a scant month to choose a path toward the county’s future. The deadline is March 2 to put anything before the voters in May, which in turn is the last election in time to settle the annual budget that starts July 1. 

Should the board choose to propose a tax, the choices become a little more detailed: first property tax or sales tax? A five-year property tax for all county services, or a permanent levy for a new public safety district. A sales tax — the first of its kind in Oregon — might be 2 percent on everything or 3 percent with lots of exemptions.

It doesn’t help that the commissioners themselves — two of them new to actually facing this dilemma — are neither in agreement on a course of action, nor appear openly ready to take a leadership role in any campaign.

That reflects the results of the Kitchen Table survey. A general property tax was clearly the most preferred option, but did not reach a majority level among those who participated.  Doing nothing — the train-wreck option — was the least favorite.

That most respondents favor doing “something” is great news.  In contrast, it is very disappointing that many still believe in fairy tales — that economic development or federal bailouts are still possible in time for the 2013-14 fiscal year.

Given the direction to “do something,” it’s time for the commissioners to choose an option and then clearly explain both their choice and the consequences to the voters.