Creation of district to fund Extension likely will be on May ballot

The use of a service district in Jackson County to provide the local portion of funds for the Southern Oregon Research & Extension Center is likely the May 2014 ballot.

The proposed funding method, which would tax no more than 5 cents per $1,000 of assessed value on Jackson County homes, will first go to a public hearing, as required by state statute. Following that, it will be up to the voters. "We have agreed to put it forward, based after we have a public hearing," said Board of Commissioners Chairman Don Skundrick. "But right now, yes, we basically agreed that's probably what should be done."

The proposed budget amounts of between 2 and 5 cents — anticipated to raise between $321,900 and $804,000 — would pay for cut positions and add new ones, travel and training, maintenance and utilities.

"It'd be great if we had the money, if we could just continue to fund it out of the general fund," Skundrick said. "This is just another way to get it done. It gives them for certainty for sustainable funding."

The proposed budget shows funding to pay for positions like a 4-H program assistant, Master Gardener and land-steward coordinators, a property and building manager and an office assistant. Supplies, materials, county fair judges and prizes now paid by the county, and delayed center maintenance also would be included.

The option comes on the heels of the county's Budget Committee deciding to cut general fund support for the 2013-14 fiscal year, intended to close the gap on a $6.7 million budget shortfall. The Sheriff's Department, development services, public health, veteran's services and the libraries received similar funding cuts. The board later passed a budget that would provide six months of general fund support — $102,102.

"This is what we're faced with," said Jack Duggan, chair for Friends of Research & Extension.

The Friends group will now go to the 11 incorporated cities within the county, asking them to pass a resolution to be included in the district. County officials said cities not opting in would not change the tax rate decided on. The county could choose to either supplement the gap or reduce services.

"The options are wide open," county counsel Rick Whitlock said at a board work session today.

— Ryan Pfeil

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