Council hears sales tax proposal

Hot topics were presented when the Cave Junction City Council convened July 11 before a packed room at City Hall.
The most pressing topic of the meeting was Josephine County Commissioner Dan DeYoung’s presentation about funding local law enforcement. DeYoung started out strong, pointing out that the Josephine County Sheriff’s Office currently has enough funding to keep them going through June 2023. After this, however, he is concerned that numbers will “plummet down to amounts similar to those seen in 2012,” when law enforcement was drastically underfunded in a way that made it impossible for them to effectively serve the city of Cave Junction and the county as a whole. DeYoung explained that this potential budget cut could lead to layoffs within the department, something that would also hurt law enforcement capabilities.
To prevent this from happening, DeYoung has been working together with the sheriff’s office to devise a few new ways to generate the necessary revenue for law enforcement over the coming years. He informed the council that “although they have not landed on a firm path to follow quite yet, when they do, they plan to bring it to the voters.” He hopes that when that occurs, they have not only the city’s support, but the support of the greater JoCo area.
Thus far, the options that JoCo officials have come up with center on new tax revenue. Commissioner DeYoung broached several ideas, but mainly focused on a seasonal 3% sales tax for Josephine County that, if passed, would begin in April and end in October.
DeYoung explained that the sales tax proceeds would be divided between regions of Josephine County according to population. Using this math, Grants Pass would receive 44% of the money, Cave Junction would receive merely 2.4% (estimated $400,000), and 48% of the money would go directly to the sheriff’s office.
Councilor Ethan Lane was quick to point out a flaw in this logic: The hypothetical percentage that Cave Junction would receive through this effort would be less than the city actually needs. Lane cited the city’s steady population growth as a factor. He mentioned the demand for law enforcement services in the area as being more essential than that of Grants Pass, which already has its own department of public safety in addition to the sheriff’s office, a point that the other councilors agreed with.
The commissioner was adamant that the amount given within his presentation was an accurate representation based on population, but he agreed to double-check the numbers and take the Illinois Valley’s 911 call rate into consideration as well.
Mayor Meadow Martell thought that a workshop on the issue was needed so that the council could ask more detailed questions. DeYoung said he would be happy to meet with the council to explain this further and answer questions.
In conclusion, despite naysayers who have reiterated to him that a sales tax will “never pass” in JoCo, DeYoung is hopeful that voters will want to compromise in order to keep the community safe.
To challenge this viewpoint, local resident and perennial county commissioner candidate Mark Seligman spoke out against the attempts by the commissioners and the sheriff’s office to accrue more funding. He gave a long-winded, passionate speech expressing his view that law enforcement and the county could have done more to prevent this situation from happening in the first place.
Toward the end of his statement, Seligman asked the council if they would voice their opinion for or against the ideas that the commissioner had brought up. In response, Martell told him that since there was nothing in front of the council to vote on, that would simply not be possible.