By Colleen Roberts
For the Independent
The talk of the town, whether you are a citizen or a commissioner, is the county budget, the proposed budget cuts, and increased taxes. The Jackson County Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing followed by deliberations on the recommended budget for 2013-2014 on May 29. Citizens wishing to address the Commissioners regarding the budget may do so at this meeting at 9:30 am at the Courthouse Auditorium.
Once again the proposed budget cannot be “balanced” without tapping into the rainy day fund. Jackson County is over $7 Million short of the necessary funds and instead of depleting the financial reserves, a surcharge on citizens has been recommended to fill this gap. Commissioner Skundrick tabled this idea at a budget hearing in April. County Counsel and the Administration have followed the direction of the Commissioners with the development of a proposed ordinance (a jail operation fee) which may be referred to the voters in November 2013. The commissioners chose to survey the citizens first. A July 24, deadline is the target date to proceed with the information for the voter’s pamphlet. The proposed ordinance is estimated to generate $6.1 million, according to County Administrator Danny Jordan with a calculated 85% collection rate. If passed by the voters, monthly payments would begin January 1, 2014 by the occupant of every apartment, home, and business. Initially, the surcharge will be $7 per month plus CPI adjustments for five years, and could be increased to a maximum of $10 per month plus CPI adjustments for the sixth year. The Commissioners claim that the surcharge could be eliminated at their discretion should revenue return to the County.
The cost of the election would run between $150,000-$170,000. The survey cost is estimated between $12,000-$25,000 and has already been set aside, according to county officials.
In other county business an order was approved to implement Article 1 section 41 (subsection 1) of the Oregon Constitution. “the people of the State of Oregon find and declare that inmates who are confined in corrections institutions should work as hard as the taxpayers who provide for their upkeep…”
Work crews from the Community Justice Transition Center will work on county projects contracted with private and public business entities. These inmate work programs have the potential to generate income for the operations of the correction institution and will be at the sole discretion of the corrections director (section 41, subsection 8 and 9), however this was not presented at the meeting. Consideration of this provision may further alleviate the need for taxation or draining reserves.