Let's try this again on shifting tax receipts

EDITOR'S NOTE: In Thursday's paper we ran an SYA answer that answered the basic question correctly, but contained a couple of critical errors. Rather than run a correction somewhere else in the paper, we're giving ourselves a do-over on the whole shebang. Here it is:

If voters approve the Heritage District levy this November, giving 5 cents per $1,000 of assessed value to historical societies, will the collected taxes again go into the county's general fund? Considering the 25 cents per $1,000 voters approved in 1948 was absorbed into the county budget and no longer used to fund such societies, what guarantee do taxpayers have that this won't happen again? Incidentally, I am in favor of the measure but concerned.

— Margaret B., Eagle Point

Margaret, this question sounds familiar, but we're up for another try at answering it.

In short, voters are guaranteed that Jackson County can't absorb the funding for the Rogue Valley Heritage District, because the district won't be part of the county's operations. Instead it will be its own separate taxing district, limited to charging no more than a nickel per $1,000 of assessed property value (that's $10 annually for a property assessed at $200,000).

By the way, Margaret, we also should point out that the heritage district vote is expected to be held in next year's May primary, rather than this November.

Your concerns about the shifting tax revenues are based on fact: Ballot Measure 50, approved by voters in 1996, dealt with property tax limitations. Tucked away in the pages of legalese describing the measure was a zinger that went unnoticed by most: For local governments, all existing levies would be rolled into one general fund levy.

That meant Jackson County could take the money approved for historical preservation and libraries and do with it as it wished. And the Jackson County commissioners did just that, cutting off funding for local historical societies and reducing library funding to the point that libraries are open only a few days a week (and they've just announced libraries likely will once again be on the chopping block).

But the historical society and library funding measures were levies that were authorized by Jackson County as part of its operations, so when Measure 50 came along, they were at risk. The same is not true of the heritage district, which would stand on its own two feet and would not have to fear a financial raid from the county courthouse.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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