Group seeks Medford Council support for heritage levy idea

Ballot measure plan would provide basic funding for 17 county historical societies

The Medford City Council on Thursday will be asked to throw its support behind a levy to fund historical societies throughout Jackson County.

Tam Moore of the Our Heritage Political Action Committee will ask the council to endorse a ballot measure to add up to 5 cents on every $1,000 of assessed valuation. On a house with an assessed value of $200,000, the annual extra tax would be $10.

Moore said three cities, Eagle Point, Jacksonville and Gold Hill, have officially passed resolutions in support of the levy. So far no city has rejected the idea, he said.

The City Council will meet at noon, Thursday, in City Hall, 411 W. Eighth St.

To get the measure on the ballot, local cities will decide whether to opt in or out of a proposed heritage district.

Supporters then must collect signatures from 15 percent of the registered voters living within the boundaries of the district to qualify for the May 2014 ballot.

If passed, the levy would raise enough money for the county's 17 historical societies to be self-sustaining.

Moore said the levy would raise more than $800,000 a year, providing enough to cover basic costs for the historical societies, but not enough to make them thrive.

"It makes all of them sustainable, but they are going to have to continue to do fundraising from private sources, grants and that sort of stuff," he said.

Part of the money raised from the levy would be set aside for major renovation work on historical buildings

Most of the historical societies would receive between $13,000 and $28,000 a year. The Southern Oregon Historical Society would receive the largest share at $225,000 annually. The Jacksonville historic buildings would receive the second-largest share at $47,450.

In Medford, the two historical groups that residents might be familiar with include Railroad Park and the Southern Oregon Historical Society.

In 2008, supporters of the Rogue Valley Historic District failed to get enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.

In 1948, Jackson County voters approved a permanent levy of 25 cents per $1,000 to support historic preservation. That money is still being collected, but it became part of the county general fund when voters approved ballot measures 47 and 50 more than a decade ago, and the money no longer goes to historical societies.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com.


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