A service district that would fund Oregon State University's Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center will go before Jackson County voters in May.
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday unanimously approved referring the Jackson County 4-H, Master Gardener and Agricultural Extension Service District to the May ballot.
If passed, a tax of 5 cents per $1,000 of assessed value would be levied on Jackson County households. That's $7.71 a year for a home assessed at $154,210, the average in Jackson County.
The annual $831,000 raised by the service district would go toward bolstering programs, funding new programs, travel and training, maintenance and other services. The Board of Commissioners would serve as the governing body.
Proponents of the district packed the Jackson County Courthouse during a final public hearing on the measure to show their support for getting the funding mechanism.
"With your support, I hope to be involved in 4-H with my grandchildren," said 10-year-old Makena Clevenger, who has been involved with the Extension Service youth program for two years. "It is a program worth saving."
The Extension Service offers a multitude of programs, including food preservation, viticulture, nutrition, livestock and forage, land stewardship, Master Gardeners and 4-H youth programs.
Bill Collins of Gold Hill talked about the 190 acres he purchased 40 years ago, and how the Extension Service helped give him advice that got the land back in shape.
"It had been heavily logged and poorly cared for," Collins told the board. "We went to the Extension for help. We now have a beautiful forest and a sustainable forest."
Jackson County and the Extension Service have had a partnership for about 100 years. The county has provided the operation about 10 percent of its annual budget, with the remainder coming from private, state and federal funds. Jackson County officials have said they cannot provide any more money to the Extension Service because of a downturn in federal funding. If no local support is found, federal and state funding streams would also be cut off.
"We are funded with a three-legged stool as we like to say," said Phil Van Buskirk, SOREC's executive director. "For 100 years, the local support's been (Jackson County's) general fund. If they remove all funding from the general fund, then that leaves us to scramble and find alternative local support."
Van Buskirk said SOREC will now turn their focus toward a public education
"The hard part now is going to be marketing what we do and who we are to people who don't know us," he said.
Lori Hopkinson, business manager for the Rogue Valley Growers & Crafters Market, also was in attendance. She said the outpouring of support was not a surprise.
"The momentum behind it is just going to continue to grow," Hopkinson said.
Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at email@example.com.