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Josephine County officials discuss proposed sales tax ahead of election

<p>The Josephine County Jail in Grants Pass, Ore., is pictured in an undated photo.</p>
Dave Blanchard
The Josephine County Jail in Grants Pass.

Elected officials in Josephine County are banding together in an effort to raise money for underfunded law enforcement operations this November.

An ordinance on the November ballot asks whether residents support a 3% seasonal sales tax to fund law enforcement.

At a press conference on Wednesday, representatives from Cave Junction, Grants Pass, Josephine County, and the sheriff’s department explained the tax and answered reporters’ questions.

When asked about the biggest opposition to the tax, Josephine County Commissioner Dan DeYoung was blunt.

"It’s a sales tax," he said. "I was born and raised here, and I’ll be quite honest with you, I never thought a sales tax would be a viable option that I would put my name to paper and vote for. So the 3% sales tax came up, and it’s got some good points, but it is still a sales tax."

The money would be used to fund law enforcement services throughout the county.

The Southern Oregon county has historically avoided tax increases. The property tax rate in Josephine County is .58 per $1,000, one of the lowest in the state.

The county sheriff’s office is facing a $2.5 million shortfall next year, the result of decreased funding from the federal government and low property tax rates.

Josephine County Sheriff Dave Daniel said if the tax is approved, his department would have 41 deputies, up from just 18 right now.

"That opens up a fully fleshed detectives’ division, a patrol division that is up to seven to eight patrol deputies at a time. And definitely 24/7 patrols. Almost would feel like a fully funded organization," he said.  

Without the tax, Daniel says he would have only six deputies, five of whom would be contracted.

Residents in Josephine County will vote on the tax on November 8. If it passes, it will take effect on April 15, 2023. The seasonal tax would apply between April 15 and October 15.

Jane Vaughan began her journalism career as a reporter for a community newspaper in Portland, Maine. She's been a producer at New Hampshire Public Radio and worked on WNYC's On The Media. Jane earned her Master's in Journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.