GOLD BEACH — The commissioners of budget-strapped Curry County decided Thursday not to put a proposed 3 percent county sales tax on the May Primary Election ballot to give voters more time to understand the pros and cons.
Instead, the commissioners will consider holding a special election Aug. 7 or wait for a regular election on Sept. 18.
“Obviously, there are a lot of questions and a lot of answers,” said Commissioner Bill Waddle. “To be fair to voters, I am in favor of a fall ballot.”
Commissioner George Rhodes agreed that May is too soon.
“I have the information to make a decision, but I think it would be a disservice not to give it to the people to study,” Rhodes said.
Curry County has one of the lowest property tax rates in Oregon for county general services, because federal timber sales payments or support payments have been sufficient to pay for the services. With federal payments disappearing, the county is facing a budget deficit of more than $3 million for the 2012-13 budget year, most of which would be needed for public safety services including the sheriff’s office, district attorney’s office and juvenile department.
A sales tax is one of many options proposed to the commissioners to help make up the loss of revenue. Another possible option is a property tax.
Waddle said the sales tax, with all the exemptions, would cost residents less money than a property tax. He said that is because tourists and shoppers from California would pay more than half of the sales tax collected.
During a special meeting Thursday, the commissioners approved the second reading for the Option to Pursue a Potential Goods Sales Tax Ordinance for Curry County, but called for a third reading, scheduled for 2 p.m. April 18, to give more residents a chance to attend the meeting and learn more.
County election official Connie Higgins told the commissioners that if they held a sales tax vote at an Aug. 7 special election, and that vote failed, they would have enough time to place a property tax measure on the Nov. 6 ballot.
If they waited until the Sept. 18 regular election to do the sales tax, and that vote failed, they could put the same sales tax measure on the November general election ballot, but there wouldn’t be enough time to put a property tax on the November ballot.
“I’m for looking at Sept. 18 so, if the vote is extremely close, we would have the opportunity to put the same measure on the November election,” Waddle said. “We have to look some at the property tax, but I wouldn’t even vote for that.”
The commissioners have placed the sales tax measure on the county website and will be making paper copies to hand out and place in the county’s public libraries.