RV park is covering its debts nicely

It appears the new Jackson County RV park, adjacent to the fairgrounds, may have witnessed a successful first season. According to news articles, Jackson County gave county parks $5 million to construct the RV park, of which $3 million was considered a loan to be paid back over a 12-year period. If my math serves me correctly, that equates to approximately $250,000 per year for 12 years. The county’s parks program is a self-supporting program funded with no taxpayer support. What guarantees do the citizens of Jackson County have that the parks program will pay that $3 million back to the taxpayers?

— Randy H., Eagle Point

Well, Randy, we've heard that only death and taxes are guaranteed, but the RV park's operation so far certainly has lived up to expectations — and its financial commitments. According to Jackson County Administrator Danny Jordan, the parks program is planning to pay back almost double the amount due the county this year.

The Jackson County Board of Commissioners provided a $2 million grant to build the Southern Oregon RV Park and loaned the parks program even more than you thought, $3.5 million, to complete the park. The repayment schedule is actually over a 10-year period, with the payment amounts increasing each year and ending in a balloon payment.

The first installment, due in 2017, was nearly $159,000 and was paid in full. The amount due in 2018 is $182,290 and the parks department is planning to pay back $350,000, Jordan said. He added that if occupancy rates "continue to be positive," the county plans for the loan to be paid off early.

Next year's payment amount is about $205,000, and then the payments ramp up roughly $50,000 each year until 2026, when the final payment of $1,061,337 is due.

Jordan notes that the county is essentially loaning itself the money, so whether taxpayers could end up on the hook for the loan is really no different than if any county revenue source failed to meet its goal. The county could fully fund the RV park if it chose, because the parks department could be funded out of the county's general fund if the Board of Commissioners chooses to do so. The parks program was removed from general fund support about a decade ago as the county dealt with the loss of federal timber revenue.

Jordan notes that under state law, the Board of Commissioners, or a future board, could choose to change the loan requirements, because it's a loan to itself. But, he concluded, "the plan is to pay off the loan early, and with the occupancy rates we are seeing, we are feeling good that will occur."

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