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Jackson County boosts RCC

Voters in Jackson County appear to have overwhelmingly approved Rogue Community College’s $20 million bond to pay for new buildings in both Jackson and Josephine counties.

“We’re all very excited it passed,” said Jenna George, a 23-year-old former student of RCC. “It’s good to see the community come together for education.”

Preliminary results Tuesday night showed the levy to fund new facilities and health and technology-related programs at RCC was passing in Jackson County by 55.6 to 44.5 percent, or 26,863 to 21,493 votes. Josephine County voters were opposing it by a small margin, but even with those votes figured in, the measure was passing comfortably, 53.2 percent to 46.8 percent, in results released at 9:22 p.m.

“It looks like we did it,” RCC President Peter Angstadt said.

The bond must pass muster on a majority of ballots in Jackson and Josephine counties combined. Josephine County's Elections website showed the measure was failing there by 753 votes, 12,202 to 11,449. But Jackson County's more than 5,000-vote cushion was keeping the measure safely ahead.

Measure 17-69 would tax Jackson and Josephine county property owners 5 cents per $1,000 of assessed value — $10 a year for someone who owns a $200,000 home. The 20-year bond levy would collect $20 million, and RCC would also qualify for $8 million in matching funds from the state.

The funds would go toward projects that include construction of a new facility or remodel of existing buildings at the White City and Medford campuses, intended for health care, technology manufacturing, fire science, EMT training and computer science programs. The money also would go toward remodeling buildings at the Redwood Campus in Grants Pass. The new or remodeled digs would include a nurse-training facility and science education center on the Grants Pass campus, career and technical education classrooms, and labs on all campuses and satellite sites.

Angstadt said he crunched the numbers in the early returns for both counties and expected the strong lead to hold as updated returns come in.

Voters in Josephine County might be disappointed to learn they voted down the measure but will still have to pay the additional property taxes.

“This is a district college,” Angstadt said. “Every taxpayer in the district and every voter got their chance to make their wishes known.”

Christina Kruger, one of the key supporters, said she felt like volunteers did a lot of work getting the message out to voters, so she felt  good on election night. “I’ve been pretty confident,” she said.

But RCC supporters had worried that it might be difficult to get support from both counties.

“It was a calculated risk to go to both counties," said Kevin Talbert, RCC board member.

Talbert said a lot of enthusiastic volunteers helped explain to voters what the educational needs are for RCC and its students and how this money will help.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/reporterdm.