Commissioners frustrated by tax opt-out rules

Seige Schatza
IVN copy editor

On Jan. 17, the Board of Josephine County Commissioners voted to reverse a moratorium they had placed on annexations into the Josephine Community Library District Dec. 20.
A JoCo Circuit Court judge ordered the county not to grant any more library district opt-outs Jan. 6, but made no mention of voluntary annexations into the district by property owners residing outside the boundaries. And given that five landowners had petitioned to join the library district Jan. 17, the board lifted the moratorium to grant their petitions.
Before the vote though, Commissioner Herman Baertschiger gave an update on where things stand with the process of providing landowners who do not wish to pay taxes in support of the library a path to opt out: “The intent of this so-called moratorium was to work through the process. We obviously have been frustrated – everybody has been frustrated – with the statutory language. It’s difficult to understand. It contradicts itself. Some of it was written in the ‘50s, some of it was written in the ‘70s.”
He went on, “There’s little case law to look at and review. We’re not done with that process of trying to figure out how to create a process that is within the sideboards of these statutes. We’re not done with that yet. We’ve been sued. It’s in court. The judge is looking at it. We don’t know what he’s going to say and we’re getting other advice, legal advice, and it seems like every time we have another person looking at it, we have another opinion. So it’s obvious the statutes are antiquated.”
The five properties that were annexed into the library district were a 28.17-acre property on Deer Creek Rd. in Selma; a 13.7-acre property on Williams Hwy. in Williams; a 3.87-acre property on Takilma Rd. in the Illinois Valley; a 2.76- acre property on Applegate Av. in Grants Pass; and a 10-acre property on Redwood Hwy. in Selma.
Library Director Kate Lasky was at the meeting and recited her traditional statement on the annexations: “As we have done for the last six years, these five petitioners would like to annex their property into the library district to receive the benefit of the service and have the opportunity to vote or run for the board in the next election.”
Lasky spoke again during public comments, sharing her excitement toward the county’s involvement in a library program: “I wanted to today say thank you to the four Rotary Clubs in Josephine County who are funding the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, really spearheaded by Cynthia Harrelson, who set it up for our system, for our county in partnership with the Rippy Foundation, who pays half of the fee. And then the Rotary Clubs pay the other half of the fee so that every child under the age of five can join the Dolly Parton Imagination Library and have a book sent to their home every month from zero to five years old.”
The library director elaborated that 4,796 children in Josephine County are enrolled in the program and 202,666 have graduated out of it. “They went on to kindergarten, all having read the same books,” said Lasky. “So they have that opportunity to talk in kindergarten about the same books that they’ve read.”
A total of 128,865 books have been mailed, according to Lasky.
Also speaking during public comments was Colleen Padilla, director of Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development, Inc. She informed the board that the State of the Rogue Valley annual breakfast is slated to be held Feb. 29 at the Rogue Valley Country Club from 8-11 a.m.
“There’s a guest site consultant coming to speak on site selection, recruitment, foreign direct investment, many things that impact business development throughout our region and the world,” Padilla said. “And then there’s also a state economist, Josh Lair from the state of Oregon, coming to speak.”
Padilla also invited the commissioners to attend an elected officials social hosted jointly by SOREDI and Rogue Valley Council of Governments, which will take place Jan. 29 at Central Point City Hall.
Finally, Padilla shared some recently released metrics showing that 19.8% of the Josephine County workforce – 6,026 individuals – commutes to Jackson County for their primary occupation. Additionally, 6.1% of the Jackson County workforce – 5,222 individuals – commute to Josephine County for their primary occupation.
“It’s important to us to continually reiterate that we’re a regional economy and we work together and people are going back and forth,” the SOREDI director concluded.
As is done on a yearly basis, the commissioners issued a proclamation for the pro-life holiday Sanctity of Human Life and Respect for Life Day, commemorating the anniversary of the now-overturned Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling legalizing abortion.
Steve Raycroft of Josephine County Right to Life accepted the proclamation as he has in years past, delivering the following remarks:
“We have a red rose for each of you, a symbol of the innocent unborn, the loss of these millions of lives and the spilling of their blood because abortion is not victimless, not clean and tidy, not a quick procedure that sweeps a mistake under the rug. There’s a silent scream made by each and every victim of abortion, and there are tears and sorrow of those that are born and who deal with the aftermath of this tragedy.”
Raycroft added that his organization will also march May 5 to protest the state of Oregon’s own laws protecting the right to abortion.