Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Wednesday, Aug. 17 @ 4:49 p.m. / Oregon
Curry County Consumption Tax Likely Won't Be On November Ballot
Today's meeting. | Curry County
Two Curry County commissioners and the county treasurer admitted there wasn’t enough time to put a consumption tax measure before voters in November.
They’ll use the upcoming election as an opportunity to see how a similar Law Enforcement Retail Activity Tax measure pans out in Josephine County.
But there’s still some question about when Curry County’s tax measure can appear on a ballot. Even if voters can decide the issue in the May 2023 primary election, Curry County Commissioner Court Boice, who is part of a consumption tax task force, lamented the loss of about $2 million in tax revenue.
“We would lose part of those 2023 summer tourism dollars that we need,” he told his colleague, John Herzog, on Wednesday. “And the pressure to replay the Road Fund Reserve will always be there.”
Commissioner Chris Paasch was absent.
Josephine County commissioners unanimously voted last week to send its 3 percent tax measure to the Nov. 8 ballot, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported. If it’s approved, the revenue it generates would go toward the sheriff’s office, juvenile department and district attorney’s office.
The Grants Pass Police Department would get tax revenue funding as would Cave Junction for law enforcement, OPB reported.
At a July 25 Brookings City Council meeting, Boice said Cave Junction would get about $300,000 if voters approve the tax measure and “they are excited as can be.” Boice said the tax would raise about $18 million for Josephine County.
A 3 percent consumption tax in Curry County would generate about $5 million, Boice told Brookings City Councilors.
On Wednesday, he broke things down further by population, saying that Brookings would receive $1.4 million in tax revenue, Gold Beach would get about $500,000 and Port Orford would get $250,000.
“We don’t know what kind of budget issues we’re going to be faced with next March, April (or) May,” Boice said, adding that he hoped there wouldn’t be the $5 million budget shortfall Curry County experienced this year. “I would be shocked if it was, but I was shocked last spring.”
County Treasurer David Barnes proposed a commodity tax in January that was designed primarily to collect additional money from tourists and shoppers from outside Curry County.
At a Budget Committee meeting in March, Barnes said the 1- to 3-percent tax would be levied on tobacco, alcohol, hotel rooms, restaurant bills and other goods that can’t be purchased with an EBT card. Barnes’ proposal included a 35 percent rebate, or kicker, for Curry County residents.
The consumption or commodity tax was the main solution the Budget Committee in March discussed as a way to avoid dipping into the county Roads Department’s $20 million in reserves to balance the county’s budget.
On Wednesday, county Roadmaster Richard Christensen said he expected $5-6 million from the Road Reserve Fund would be needed to balance the county’s budget next year.
“Because we weren’t able to find alternate funding this year, there’s going to be a $5-6 million budget shortfall next year,” he said. “We’re going to have to make some really hard decisions (about) what services can we give to our community. I think the next budget season is going to be very very difficult.”
Though he said he’s “not in favor of anything for this November,” Herzog said he wanted to keep discussing and refining proposed consumption tax measure. He noted that there will be a new county commissioner in January, but getting voters to approve a tax in Curry County is a challenge.
“We need to keep bringing this up at every meeting,” he said. “We have got to figure out a way to support our law enforcement in Curry County and without timber receipts.”