After a long string of defeated property tax levies, voters in Josephine County finally found two they could support. A public safety levy and a levy to establish a public library district both passed by nearly identical 52 to 48 percent margins.
In recent years, the loss of timber revenue from federal lands has led to sharp cutbacks in public services. But voters in this economically hard-pressed southwest Oregon county have long rejected proposals to increase what are among the lowest property tax rates in the state.
Now, they’ve approved an increase of 93 cents per thousand dollars of property value to fund adult jail and juvenile detention facilities. That’s a lower rate than the county has proposed before.
And Joshua Robinson – chair of the county Republican Party, which opposed the levy – says that may have been what finally did the trick.
"I think that have made part of the difference," he said. "We’ve also got a lot of concern about our Sheriff’s Department and people are concerned about their safety."
Voters also approved a new library district, which is comprised of the areas surrounding the four existing libraries in Grants Pass, Cave Junction, Williams and the Wolf Creek area.
Laurel Samson, one of the newly elected library district board members and chair of the campaign to support the levy, said supporters are thrilled.
"Everybody is so happy that the community really stepped up for this," she said. "And they made it clear that libraries are important."
County residents who live outside the district will be able to buy library cards or volunteer in exchange.