Extension tax district may boost programs

Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center officials hope to bolster programs, staff and materials through a service district they want to create through the May 2014 ballot.

In a preliminary budget estimate presented to the Jackson County Board of Commissioners Tuesday, Oregon State University Extension supporters proposed raising at least $300,000 to fund new positions, travel and training, maintenance and other services.

The proposal would restore positions and materials that were cut and allow some new additions to support program demands, officials said.

The proposed budget shows funding to pay for a land-steward coordinator, Master Gardener coordinator, 4-H program assistant and a building and property manager, along with an office assistant. Money from the proposed service district also would cover supplies, reference materials, delayed maintenance at the center, as well as county fair judges and prizes now paid for by the county.

The ballpark budget adjustments show $207,000 is proposed for personnel, with about $93,000 for maintenance, materials and additional expenses.

Extension officials emphasized the numbers presented to the county commissioners are preliminary and likely will be adjusted later.

"It's been recommended we look at a lot of different options, but the most logical option is to look at a service district," said Phil Van Buskirk, Extension executive director.

The county's Budget Committee decided to pull general fund support from the Extension Service for the 2013-14 fiscal year to help shore up a $6.7 million shortfall. Several additional county programs also suffered cuts, including the Sheriff's Department, development services, public health, veteran's services and the libraries. The Board of Commissioners later passed a budget that would provide six months of funding for the Extension Service — $102,102.

"We're prepared to do whatever it takes to save our Extension," said Jack Duggan, chairman for Friends of Research & Extension.

The district would cost Jackson County taxpayers somewhere between 2 and 5 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, which would amount to between $3.18 and $7.94 annually on a home assessed at $158,800, the median value in Jackson County.

A 2-cent assessment would raise an estimated $321,900, while 5 cents would raise about $804,800, according to the preliminary numbers presented Tuesday.

"Two cents is minimal. Certainly there should be someplace between two and five," Van Buskirk said.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@mailtribune.com.

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