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It's back to the future for SOHS

Levy would make the historical society self-sufficent once more

While Jackson County libraries and government agencies face closure or severe cutbacks, the Southern Oregon Historical Society is thinking ahead, to a potential tax levy that would return it to self-sufficiency. The proposal is a good one, and we think voters will find it a bargain if it appears as planned on the 2008 ballot.

In 1948, county voters approved a permanent property tax levy to support the Historical Society. The levy grew along with property values as the society amassed an irreplaceable collection of artifacts, photos and historic properties.

But in 1997, Ballot Measure 47 rolled all dedicated tax levies into the county general fund and the society was forced to compete for its budget, which began a steep decline.

This July 1, the society's share of the county budget will drop to zero. The society expects to have a budget of about $582,000 &

8212; roughly half its budget this year. Full- and part-time staff will be laid off, remaining staff will take a 10 percent pay cut and programs and museum hours will be reduced.

The society's board is working with the Southern Oregon legislative delegation to change state law to allow voters to create a heritage district and levy 6 to 8 cents per $1,000 assessed value. The measure is planned for the November 2008 ballot. Why do we think the idea will succeed?

It's affordable: A 6-cent tax would mean the owner of a home assessed at the county average would pay about $10 a year. Contrast that with the 25 cents per $1,000 (nearly $42 for the average home) the society was getting before 1997.It's modest: The society isn't asking to return to the days when its levy generated $2.2 million a year. The new levy would generate approximately $1 million annually.It's fair: The society will continue to support 14 small historical societies stretching from Talent to McKee Bridge to Lake Creek.It's responsible: Part of the budget will be set aside each year for a fund to preserve and restore historic buildings.It's prudent: The society's collection of 80,000 artifacts, 750,000 historic photographs and 6 million manuscript items are irreplaceable. We all have a responsibility to see that they are preserved for future generations.

Panthers make us proudThe South Medford boys basketball team not only brought home a state championship trophy over the weekend, they brought together a community as they battled through the bracket in Eugene.

The Panthers defeated Lake Oswego 58-54 on the court Saturday night at the University of Oregon to claim the title for the first time in four decades for a team from Southern Oregon. South's legion of fans also served notice that night, turning venerable Mac Court into the Panthers' home away from home. The South band rocked the place and the fans dominated the airspace as they whooped and stomped for the boys from Medford.

Much was made of the repeat showdown for the two teams from last year's final, which Lake Oswego won 57-55. Even more was made of the matchup between South's Kyle Singler, who's headed for Duke University to play basketball, and the UCLA-bound Kevin Love.

In the end, it was not an individual who triumphed, but a team. All year long, South rode the efforts of its many players, the leadership of a coaching staff headed by Dennis Murphy and the emotions of thousands of fans and students. When they hoisted the trophy at night's end, they celebrated not just the end of a tremendous season, but the journey that carried them there as well.

Congratulations, Panthers!