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Talent to vote on Almeda Fire recovery and revitalization plan

New homes rise near the rubble of the Almeda fire, March 2021.
Geoffrey Riley
New homes rise near the rubble of the Almeda Fire in March 2021.

The proposed Measure 15-216 would use tax increment financing to revitalize areas that were devastated by the 2020 Almeda Fire.

On May 16, Talent residents will vote in a special election on a plan to help renew the city's downtown. Here's what you need to know about what it means.

What is tax increment financing (TIF), and how would it work?
The proposed urban renewal area covers about 195 acres in Talent, mostly in the Almeda Fire burn scar and downtown.

The assessed value of the properties in that district would be frozen at the level they were assessed in January 2023, and that property tax revenue would continue to go to all the usual agencies. Then as property values in the district increase over time, that additional tax money would go to these new urban renewal projects. The city estimates this TIF would generate nearly $19 million for urban renewal over the next 20 years.

That money would be used to complete 16 urban renewal projects, which together have four goals: speed up affordable housing construction, revitalize commercial areas, upgrade public infrastructure and improve natural disaster preparation. These 16 projects came from the city and community and include improving railroad crossings and sidewalks; planting trees; exploring neighborhood-specific improvements like storm drains and sanitary sewers; and installing an emergency warning and response system.

These projects are expected to cost nearly $14 million.

Some services — including the City of Talent, Jackson County Fire District 5, Jackson County, Jackson County Library District and the Rogue Valley Transportation District — would forgo tax revenue they would have received otherwise. But existing budgets would not be cut.

After 20 years, the urban renewal district would end, and all agencies would continue receiving their usual share of property taxes without the urban renewal agency.

If this plan is approved by voters in May, it would be adopted by the Talent City Council and go into effect in the fall.

Would this plan impact my property taxes?
No, the proposed plan would not increase property taxes for residents or impose a new property tax.

What do supporters of this plan say?
Supporters appreciate the goals of the project, particularly the focus on recovering affordable housing and boosting business. They say the plan would increase the area's disaster resilience and decrease risk by replacing lost tree canopy and installing a warning system. They point out that taxing districts would receive at least the same revenues as they receive now, and that the TIF is temporary. It's supported by the city and mayor.

What do opponents of this plan say?
Opponents say the plan would redirect money that would otherwise go to vital community services, especially the fire district. They say the region can't fully recover without these public services, and some would prefer that the county use bonds as a way to fund these projects. Opponents include the Jackson County Board of Commissioners, Phoenix-Talent School District, the Oregon State Fire Fighters Council and the Jackson County Fire District Board.

How do I vote on this?
Ballots for this special election were sent out on Friday, April 28. The deadline to drop off ballots is 8 p.m. on Tuesday, May 16.

Information about where to find the nearest ballot drop box can be found on the Jackson County Elections Office website.

More information can be found on the Jackson County Elections Office website. For further questions, contact the Jackson County Elections Office at 541-774-6148.

Jane Vaughan is a regional reporter for Jefferson Public Radio. Jane 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.