April 28, 2006 Most agree revenue stability is Jackson Countys top issue By Anita Burke For the Tidings With the possible loss of federal timber subsidies looming, candidates vying for a chance to become a Jackson County commissio
With the possible loss of federal timber subsidies looming, candidates vying for a chance to become a Jackson County commissioner agree that the county must find alternative revenue.
Their suggested solutions range from new taxing districts or special purpose local levies to Indian casinos and hydroelectric generating plants.
The two Democrats, Carl Worden and Tom Winmill, are in the race for the seat currently held by Jack Walker. Walker, a Republican who has been a commissioner for 11 years, is challenged within his party by Morris &
Democrat Dave Gilmour holds the other commissioner&
s job up for election this year. He has no Democratic competition, but Republicans Craig Prewitt and Jerry Hanson are facing off for a chance to challenge him in the general election.
Walker has lobbied for the continuation of federal funds to replace the revenue the county once received from the harvest of trees from federal lands. But he acknowledges times have changed and the federal lands won&
t generate money like they once did.
In the long term, he would like to see sustainable harvests on federal land to provide some money. For now, the county must focus on critical services, he said.
Walker would like the county to maintain basic library services and let communities take greater responsibility for their own branches. Cities could pick up some library operating costs and volunteers could take on larger roles, he suggested.
A handyman who turned to beekeeping after injury and timber industry changes, Saltekoff said his down-home innovation could be turned on any problem the county faces.
I was a shift millwright ?-- the guy who keeps things going, all the machines and the people, during the shift. That&
s what I want to do for the county,&
On the Democratic ticket, Worden, who said he was a lifelong Republican until the party&
s values moved away from his with the quashing of quiet protests at Bush rallies here in 2004 and warrantless wiretaps, wants to bring an Indian casino to Jackson County to generate revenue and jobs. He would like to start discussions with tribes across the region immediately and thinks the Siskiyou Mountains near Mount Ashland and Callahan&
s could be an ideal location for a casino and destination resort.
Worden would draw on his experience as national sales manager for a circus to develop a national and international advertising campaign to attract tourists to the county&
s natural wonders, such as the Rogue River.
I want to operate on the premise that we will lose the timber subsidies and must make this a revenue-producing county,&
he said. Subsidies, designed to be temporary, should have been stashed in a rainy-day fund all along rather than being spent as part of the general fund, he said. High salaries for administrators compound budget problems, he said.
His opponent Winmill praised the county for establishing a rainy-day fund in anticipation of the end of the timber money. He advocates plans the county already is working on to seek a levy for library operations this fall and for sheriff&
s patrols next year.
Those levies could replace about $16 million of the anticipated $23 million shortfall created by the elimination of the timber subsidies, he said.
To help make up some of the rest of the revenue, he suggests user fees with a clear connection between the source and the expense.
In the contested race to challenge Gilmour, longtime Phoenix-Talent School Board member Craig Prewitt said the county must take a look at an operating levy for libraries and one for law enforcement.
Those two services account for huge amounts of the county&
s discretionary operating budget,&
He also praised the county&
s efforts to establish a rainy-day fund.
s opponent Hanson didn&
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