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Extension Service to pitch service district to county

 Posted: 12:50 PM August 19, 2013

The Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center hopes to get a service district to pay for its programs on the May 2014 ballot, and agency officials will make their case before Jackson County commissioners Tuesday.

Extension Executive Director Phil Van Buskirk said it will be the first meeting with the commissioners on the issue, but that no decisions will be made. The public meeting will be held at 9 a.m. at 10 S. Oakdale Ave.

The numbers are still being worked out, but Van Buskirk said the proposed district would not tax more than 5 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. The owner of a home assessed at $158,800 — the median value in Jackson County — would pay $7.94 per year.

"Part of this discussion will be if that's the best figure to use. It certainly wouldn't be any more than that," said Jack Duggan, chairman for the Friends of Research & Extension group.

Van Buskirk said the proposed amount likely would be lower, possibly around 2 cents per $1,000.

The meeting comes on the heels of the commissioners' decision to give the program six months of general fund support — $102,102 — in the 2013-14 budget. Unless the county finds a new source of money, that's the last county funding the extension service will get, officials have said.

The extension service, which is part of Oregon State University, is funded by a hodgepodge of sources, including state, federal and local dollars, along with various grants and donations. Keeping an extension and experiment station open is tied to local financial support, Van Buskirk said. Traditionally that's come from county general fund dollars, but those are dwindling.

"The cost of operations continues to go up," Van Buskirk said.

Jackson County budget cuts made in the face of dwindling county revenues have sent various groups — including library and historical society supporters — scrambling for new sources of money.

The county put up $5.3 million from rainy-day funds to help close a $6.7 million shortfall. Officials eliminated $1.4 million in spending by cutting six months of support for the extension service, public health partner agencies, veterans services, Rogue Valley Council of Governments, communications and marketing, Rogue Valley Television, and the county's wildlife services officer. More and deeper cuts loom unless new revenue is found, officials have said.

— Ryan Pfeil

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