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Proposed heritage district won't go to May ballot

 Posted: 11:40 AM October 22, 2013

Jackson County's Board of Commissioners will not refer a proposed special district intended to fund programs, museums and historical societies in Jackson County to the May 2014 ballot.

But the proposed Rogue Valley Heritage District could go on the November ballot if the board chooses to send it to voters then. Commissioners John Rachor and Doug Breidenthal both said they support putting the measure before the public, just at a later date. Both said they would rather devote more attention to two proposed districts designed to fund the Jackson County libraries and the Southern Oregon Research & Extension Service instead.

"I'd like to put all my efforts on (those)," Rachor said at a board meeting today.

Commissioner Chair Don Skundrick was the sole voice of support for putting it on the May ballot.

"I think we ought to give the voters the opportunity to say yay or nay," he said.

The Heritage District is designed to tax no more than five cents per $1,000 of assessed value on Jackson County homes. That would generate about $800,000 a year. A special district board would set aside about $200,000 a year for major restoration projects, with the rest going to fund various operating costs for 17 museums and societies associated with the Jackson County Heritage Association, including the Southern Oregon Historical Society, the Camp White Military Museum and the Rogue Valley Genealogical Society.

District proponents say a boost to operating funds of these organizations could bolster tourism. An economic statement by the Our Heritage Political Action Committee says visitors to Southern Oregon region visit historic sites more than any other activity and that increased operating hours to facilities would likely result in longer stays and millions in additional tourist spending.

Tam Moore, chairman of the Our Heritage PAC, said museums used to receive a permanent tax levy, but that Measure 50, passed in the 1990s, reduced funding.

"Every county levy and all of the several levies that existed were wrapped into one," Moore said. "It lessened the amount of money and it changed the distribution."

Moore said he was disappointed the measure won't make it to the May ballot, but is still hopeful for November.

"Obviously this is a question the people need to decide," he said.

Other districts still being considered for the May ballot include a countywide special district to fund the county's 15 branch libraries, and a service district for the Extension. Both come on the heels of general fund cuts from the county's budget committee back in April.

— Ryan Pfeil

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