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Josephine County Ballot Measures: Explanations and Recommendations

17-116 – Replacement of Josephine County Charter

Measure 17-116 would replace the existing Josephine County Charter with an entirely new charter. The charter language covers five full pages in the voters’ pamphlet. It would be more pages, but the proposed charter removes Josephine County’s “Bill of Rights,” which include parental rights, protection of speech and religion, due process under asset forfeiture, the right to bear arms and more.

Proponents of the new chart claim it increase democracy by expanding the board of commissioners from three to five members. However, the proposed charter actually reduces voter rights because under its provisions, we can vote for only two of five members. Under the current charter, voters get to vote for 100% of the commissioners.

Proponents claim electing four commissioners from geographic districts will increase representation. However, the proposed district map puts Selma and Cave Junction in separate districts. Parts of Grants Pass are in all four districts. Josephine County tried commissioner districts previously, but voters repealed them because it reduced representation. The current charter allows citizens to discuss matters with any of the commissioners.

The proposed charter mandates the hiring of an expensive county manager who is not accountable to voters. Under the current charter, county government is managed by three full-time commissioners all of whom are accountable to the voters.

The proposed charter claims to pay for the addition of the county manager and two additional commissioners by reducing their salaries by approximately 75%. Josephine County courts have already ruled, however, that setting salaries is an administrative matter that cannot be set within a county charter. This means the cost of implementing the proposed charter would be much higher than projected. Every dollar of the general fund spent on overhead is one less dollar for the Sheriff’s Office. Better to hire two additional sheriff’s deputies than two additional commissioners.

The proposed charter would end the voters’ ability to elect the county attorney and surveyor. Under the current charter, voters get to elect these important positions.

For these reasons, the Eagle strongly urges a “No” vote on Measure 17-116.

See related editorial on page 3 and articles on page 23.

For additional information about this and other ballot measures, please refer to the Josephine County Voters’ Pamphlet.

17-117 – Animal Shelter and Animal Control Five Year Local Option Tax

QUESTION: Shall County levy $0.47 per $1,000 assessed value for five years for animal services and a capital project beginning 2024-2025?

In 2016, the voters renewed the Animal Control levy of 8 cents for five years. In 2021, voters agreed to renew the five-year levy at 11 cents per $1,000 assessed value. This 38% increase over the prior levy would presumably cover operating expenses over the five-year term of the levy.

Now halfway through the Five-year levy term, the county Public Health and Animal Control departments are asking for 327% levy increase to cover higher operating costs and to expand and modernize the animal shelter at a cost of $10 million.

If this were a proposal for a $10 million homeless shelter, it would get laughed out of town. People would demand a more reasonable solution and a detailed plan on spending the money wisely. The same thing is doubly true with this animal shelter.

Once the new facility is paid off, the levy would drop to 28 cents per $1,000 assessed value. This would still be a 155% increase over the existing levy.

The current levy of 11 cents per $1,000 assessed value has nearly three years left. Let’s use that time to plan an affordable and sustainable option.

The proposed 47 cent levy is too high, and the plan is practically nonexistent. We can do better for the animals and the property owners who will pay the bill.

The Eagle recommends a “No” vote on Measure 17-117.

See related article, Animal Control Levy: Too Many Questions, Not Enough Answers, on page 21.

17-118 – Three Rivers School District Bond, $39 million

This $39 million school bond would be funded by a 15-year property tax levy of an estimated $0.55 per $1,000 assessed value. The actual levy rate depends on interest rates incurred and changes in assessed valuations.

The bond would finance reroofing 18 district school buildings and improve security access and add video cameras.

In recent years, Three Rivers SD school enrollment has fallen from over 6,000 students to less than 4,000 students. Yet the number of schools and school buildings has remained the same. Before obligating taxpayers to pay for new roofs and security equipment for all 18 schools, the Three Rivers School Board must first evaluate the continued need for so many schools.

An open enrollment ballot measure is heading toward the November statewide ballot. This measure would allow students who live within the Three Rivers School District to attend District 7 schools as long as space is available. A second ballot measure would fund educational accounts to allow families to choose private schools or homeschooling options for their students. These educational options could significantly reduce the need for school buildings within the TRSD. Why fix up schools now which might be sold off to private schools later?

Many families are struggling to pay their bills now. Let’s not increase property taxes before we know how many school buildings are really needed.

For these reasons, the Eagle recommends a “No” vote on Measure 17-118.

See related article, Vote “No” on 17-118 and Let’s Focus on Academic Improvements, on page 22.