Commissioners focus on tax proposals to assist sheriff’s workplace | Information

With a budget shortfall of several million dollars facing Curry County, county commissioners are continuing to discuss ways to increase revenue.

At its last meeting in April, the board of commissioners debated whether to ask voters to approve a targeted consumption tax or a law enforcement district with the idea of raising funds for the sheriff’s office.

Commissioner Chris Paasch told commissioners he was not ready to make a motion one way or another, but the board must make a motion which way it wants to go quickly.

“It doesn’t take a genius to know we have a revenue shortage here,” Paasch said. “We can do several things. The one the public doesn’t want to hear is we are raising your property taxes. but we have to do something. Clearly, you can see we have a revenue shortage.”

Paasch said the county’s Budget Committee has debated the options as well, but has not chosen one tax over the other.

Paasch said he has worked with County Treasurer David Barnes to come up with a consumption tax, or sales tax, targeted primarily at tourists.

“It does look very promising that we can do this,” Paasch said. “Currently we are not looking at taxing anything other than alcoholic beverages, pot and tobacco, dining away from home and entertainment. All the normal stuff, we’re not looking to do that. We’re looking to do things that impact mostly tourism. The average person is Curry County is not going to be impacted.”

The second option is a law enforcement district or levy that would be paid through property taxes.

“Brad Alcorn, the chair of the budget committee, said something interesting at the last meeting,” Paasch said. “He said, do we want a sheriff’s department. If the answer is yes, when you call 911, you want someone to answer, we have to figure out a way to pay for it. We have to have a way to protect our citizens as we’re all sworn to do. We want to know when we put our heads to bed at night, our kids will be protected. When we call 911, we want someone to show up. And we want to know when they show up, they have the right equipment and are well trained.”

Paasch said if Curry County can’t figure out a way to fund the county government, it could lose local control.

“If you lose your county government because you cannot fund the county, the governor has already said she will move in,” Paasch said.

All three county commissioners agreed something must be done, but they stopped short of supporting one tax over another.

“We don’t have any disagreement here,” Commissioner Court Boice said. “We need to raise revenue. But to say it’s only a revenue shortage problem, we don’t know that. Former Commissioner George Rhodes went out on a limb, and he didn’t get reelected because he was promoting a consumption tax.”

Boice said before the public will support any tax proposal, he feels the county must show it can be trusted with the money it receives.

“The reason I’ve been so determined on this audit is because the chances of us passing any kind of tax levy without an audit, it gives the appearance that this board is hiding something,” Boice said. “We’re not going to get anything passed. If it’s a reasonable consumption tax, consumption is the key word. A consumption tax is basically you consume, and everybody pays an equal amount. If you don’t consume, you pay nothing. We’re talking about going forward with the public to raise funds, and the odds are not very good.”

Commissioner John Herzog said the voters should decide what needs to be done.

‘Consumption tax or law enforcement district, we’ve got to ask the voters what they want,” Herzog said. “We have three cities, we have three separate city police forces. The majority of people in Curry County do not live in those incorporated cities, so their lives are entrusted to the sheriff’s department. In my mind it’s simple, we have to have a sheriff’s department.

“The majority of people living outside the city limits of our cities need the sheriff’s department. We’ve got to figure out a way to make money to support our sheriff’s department, and even grow it to the point where it’s 2 o clock in the morning, there’s more than one deputy out there. Ask the voters what would they support and to what extent. We’ve seen the consequences of not supporting that with our sister county, Josephine County. I don’t want to go there.”

Herzog said the key would be getting all three commissioners on the same page.

The commissioners agreed to keep discussing the issue as the budget process moves forward.