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Voters Nix New Taxes: Safety Levies Fail


Voters rejected another public safety levy in Josephine County in Tuesday's election, adding to a string of levy failures dating back several years.

Vote returns showed the No side winning the night, 54 percent to 46 percent.  Measure 17-66 was crafted as a five-year serial levy to pay for more patrol deputies, more jail officers, and the reopening of the Josephine County juvenile shelter.

But the measure would have raised property taxes by $1.40 per thousand dollars assessed valuation.  Josephine County's tax rate for county services is the lowest in Oregon at 58 cents per thousand.

A similar levy in neighboring Curry County met the same fate.  It, too, would have put more deputies on patrol, but through higher property taxes.  Curry County's rate is two cents higher than Josephine County's rate. 

Both counties have traditionally been heavily dependent on federal timber receipts for income; timber receipts crashed with greater protection of federal forests, and occasional federal replacement payments have dwindled as well.  Josephine and Curry Counties no longer employ enough deputies to provide around-the-clock patrols.

Klamath County also put a serial levy on the ballot, to increase capacity at the jail.  That levy also failed.  But Klamath County voters did choose to create an Extension Service District in a separate measure.

Other highlights of the May 19 election:

  • Lane County voters rejected a higher vehicle registration fee to pay for street maintenance.
  • Brookings voters approved a gasoline tax of up to 4 cents a gallon for street repairs.
  • Reedsport voters approved a tax on marijuana.
  • Ashland voters approved the renewal of a levy to pay for school activities.
Geoffrey Riley is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and has hosted the Jefferson Exchange on JPR since 2009. He's been a broadcaster in the Rogue Valley for more than 35 years, working in both television and radio.