Several residents of Jackson County are concerned about the loss of funds for historic preservation and history-related programs and are working again on formation of a county-wide Rogue Valley Heritage district. Folks may recall that a similar attempt was made a few years ago. This new district is made possible by a 2007 amendment to Oregon’s special district law, ORS 358.442 to ORS 358.474.
By way of a little history, the voters of Oregon, in the late 1940s, voted a specific amount to fund historical preservation. That money flowed to historical coffers from that time until just a few short years ago. At that time, Jackson County challenged the assumption that all the money went to historical preservation and did not cover what Commissioner Jack Walker said was a historical building in the County courthouse. As a result, all the money that was going to historical preservation then went to the county and they slowly reduced the historical money and used it for county purposes.
According to the information received, historical preservation was receiving some $3 million in those days, and Jackson County saw that as money they should have. A court battle resulted in a settlement that saw the amount the county paid to historical preservation dwindle until it finally went away. Since that time the historical museums have operated on cash reserves and donations from membership and donations from visitors to the museums.
If the historical political action committee, Our Heritage PAC, is successful in collecting the required signatures, the issue will appear on the May 2014 ballot. If successful in gaining voter approval, the tax would add a nickel per $1000 of assessed valuation to each property tax lot. Such an amount would raise an estimated $805,000 each year. Of that amount, an estimated $200,000 would be retained by the historical district to restore public buildings deemed to have historical significance. The balance would go to operate the county’s 14 historical museums.
The consent of each of the cities within the county is needed to allow citizens within the cities to participate in the district. At this time, the historical PAC is seeking approval from cities within Jackson County for permission to contact residents within the city boundaries for signatures to place the issue on the ballot.
Several historical societies are involved in the issue. Within the area of the Upper Rogue are the Camp White Military museum, the Eagle Point Museum, The Upper Rogue Historical Society, Big Butte and the Lake Creek Historical Society. Others include the Gold Hill Museum, Applegate, Ashland Historical Railroad Museum, Jacksonville, McKee Bridge, Phoenix, the Railroad Museum in Medford, SOHS, Woodville and Buncom.