Historical levy proposal draws mixed reviews

A push for a countywide $1 million levy to bankroll local preservation efforts has drawn sharp criticism from at least one local anti-tax activist who asked when the deluge of new property levies will subside.

The levy, which would fund the Southern Oregon Historical Society and 14 smaller preservation groups, comes on the heels of a $1.29 per $1,000 assessed value levy approved to help fund the Ashland School District.

The latest levy proposal would enact a property levy of up to 7 cents per $1,000 assessed value to create a Rogue Valley Heritage District. The levy, at its maximum level, would tack on another $15 to the property tax bill of the average Ashland house valued at $207,000.

"People are just being taxed to death," said local real estate agent Don Rist. "Even though seven cents doesn't sound like much, it's got to stop some place."

Although levy proponents say the levy amount is insignificant compared to property owners' overall tax load, Rist, who lives in Talent, believes forming a historical district should not be a priority.

"I have been in the real estate business for 31 years, and I have never had anyone ask me what kind of historic buildings do you have up here," Rist said. "I've have them ask about hospitals, I've had them ask about schools, and I've had then ask about golf courses."

Before the proposal can appear on the November 2008 ballot, each of the county's 11 cities will be asked if they wish to be a part of the proposed heritage district. In each city that agrees to take part, supporters would need to collect valid signatures from 15 percent of registered voters there.

Ashland City Councilor Kate Jackson said the proposal will likely get a "good reception" from local leaders. She said even though higher property taxes could be a strain for low- and moderate-income households, she noted that levies are tax-deductable for federal returns.

"So it is much better than having fees," Jackson said.

The levy would help pay for maintenance on several county-owned buildings that rest in the hands of the Southern Oregon Historical Society, including covered-bridges and the 124-year-old former county courthouse and adjoining jail in Jacksonville.

"I seriously doubt that people are saying 'I'll move to Jackson County because they have this historical stuff," Rist said.

covers politics for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach him at csrizo@hotmail.com.

Share This Story