JoCo cancels Aug. 24 WBS

On Thursday, Aug. 18, the Board of Josephine County Commissioners held an administrative workshop in its conference room.
First on the agenda was an amendment to an existing intergovernmental agreement between Josephine County, the city of Grants Pass and Grants Pass School District 7 concerning the collection and remission of construction excise tax.
Grants Pass Parks and Community Development Business Operations Supervisor Eric Wade made an appearance over Zoom to discuss the IGA.
“Back in 2007, Senate Bill 1036 was adopted by the 2007 Legislature,” Wade explained. “It authorized the school districts to impose a construction excise tax to fund capital improvements for school facilities.”
Wade went on, “The original IGA between the school district, city of Grants Pass and Josephine County was signed in 2008. The current fee collected right now for the residential construction fee is $1 per square foot. The current fee collected for non-residential construction is $0.50 per square foot, with a $25,000 maximum path for those structures.”
In 2016, GPSD 7 passed a resolution increasing the excise fee to $1.23 per square foot for residential structures and $0.61 per square foot for non-residential, with a cap of $30,700.
The rub, Wade recounted, was that neither the city of Grants Pass nor JoCo were notified of this resolution, and therefore the increased fees have not been collected.
The amendment Wade was presenting would see the county and city begin to collect the amount settled on by GPSD 7 in 2016 and also collect a 4% administrative fee instead of the 1% currently being collected.
Wade pointed out that the increased construction excise fees and administrative fees would bring GPSD 7 up to the exact fee revenue collected on Three Rivers School District’s behalf.
Following Wade’s explanation, the commissioners raised concerns about the proposed amendment.
“I don’t feel like agreeing to this on a political reason because I don’t think the school needs any more money from us,” stated Board Vice Chair Darin Fowler. “They get enough from the state and they get backfilled from the state.
“I can’t see limiting the affordability of housing with this tax to support schools. I don’t know why anyone would want to. So I’m shocked that we’re hurting our housing market for this reason and I don’t know how to politically get around that.”
Wade was sure to note following Fowler’s strong opposition that he was merely “facilitating” the amendment proposal, rather than “advocating,” and that the city of Grants Pass doesn’t care either way what the county decides.
Fowler joked that Wade was “Switzerland” in the construction excise fee debate.
Wade went on to play “devil’s advocate” by predicting the school district’s argument would be, “Three Rivers is receiving this; why aren’t we?”
“I’d love to have that conversation with them because I could just talk about bus and fuel: You get the same per student in the county as you do in the city, so there’s a disparity there.”
Commissioner Dan DeYoung said he “fully agreed” with Fowler, adding, “This is at the wrong table at the wrong time, everything. Going from 1% to 4%, that’s a huge leap for mankind.”
Fowler, who was unaware the county was charging the excise fees for GPSD 7 alongside the city, said after Wade enlightened him, “This sounds like something that’s flown under the radar for too long, and we need to flash some light out on it.”
The board vice chair said he wanted to delay action on the excise fees under JoCo Community Development Director Mark Stevenson can offer feedback on it, and also until a discussion can be held with the school board.
“Let’s move this forward, and we’ll get it back on an agenda soon,” Fowler concluded.
Next on the agenda was an agreement with Robco, Inc. for site work in the Jet-A fuel tank replacement project at Grants Pass Airport.
JoCo Airports Director Jason Davis said the project has to be broken up into phases because it was not attracting any bidders as a complete package.
Davis also reported that rusting was detected in the fuel tank that was recently removed from the GP Airport, proving the replacement was necessary.
The $196,706 contract with Robco was approved by the board.
The board also voted to cancel the Aug. 24 weekly business session for lack of quorum.