Heritage district won't be on May ballot

Jackson County's Board of Commissioners will not refer a proposed measure to the May 2014 ballot that would create a special district intended to fund historical societies in Jackson County.

Commissioner Doug Breidenthal said Tuesday he might support putting the Rogue Valley Heritage District measure before the public at a later date.

Commissioner John Rachor said he would not support the initiative, adding he has concerns that it could set a precedent for other noncounty functions to submit similar proposals.

Both said they would rather devote more attention to two other proposed districts — one to fund Jackson County libraries and the other to fund the county Extension Service.

"I'd like to put all my efforts on (those)," Rachor said at a board meeting Tuesday.

Commission Chairman Don Skundrick supports putting the heritage district proposal on the May ballot.

"I think we ought to give the voters the opportunity to say yea or nay," he said.

The proposed district would cost property owners up to 5 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, which would generate about $800,000 a year. Supporters say a special district board would set aside about $200,000 a year for major restoration projects, and the rest would fund operating costs for 17 museums and societies associated with the Jackson County Heritage Association, including the Southern Oregon Historical Society, Camp White Military Museum and Rogue Valley Genealogical Society.

District proponents say a boost in funding for the organizations could bolster tourism. An economic statement by the Our Heritage Political Action Committee says the top activity for Southern Oregon tourists is visiting historic sites, and increasing operating hours for those facilities would likely result in longer stays and in additional tourist spending.

Tam Moore, chairman of the Our Heritage PAC, said museums used to receive a permanent tax levy, but that was before Measure 50 was passed in the 1990s.

"Every county levy and all of the several levies that existed were wrapped into one," Moore said. "It lessened the amount of money and it changed the distribution."

Moore said he was disappointed the measure won't make it to the May ballot, but he's still hopeful for November 2014.

"Obviously this is a question the people need to decide," he said.

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

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