Josephine County sends seasonal sales tax proposal to voters

By Jane Vaughan (Jefferson Public Radio)
Aug. 11, 2022 7:01 p.m.

The Josephine County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday to send an ordinance to voters for a seasonal sales tax to fund law enforcement services.

The 3% tax, called the Law Enforcement Retail Activities Tax, or LERAT, would focus on retail activities, with some exceptions, including groceries and prescription medications.


The Southern Oregon county has historically avoided tax increases. Now, officials are looking for a new way to fund its underfunded sheriff’s department.

Revenue from the tax would be used for the sheriff’s office, juvenile department, district attorney’s office, the city of Grants Pass Police Department and the city of Cave Junction for law enforcement purposes.

“The most important thing government does is protect its people. And here at the local level in Josephine County, that is at the sheriff’s office. I don’t like any of this. But I also don’t like what the consequences will be if we don’t fund our sheriff’s office,” Josephine County Board of Commissioners Chairman Herman Baertschiger said at the meeting.


Estimates for how much money the tax would raise range from $10 million to $18 million. Seven percent of the revenue would be deposited into a contingency fund in case revenue projections exceed the revenue that is received.

Seven people spoke during the public hearing on Wednesday, all of them against the tax.

The county’s legal counsel will now write up the ballot language, which county commissioners are expected to approve next week.

Josephine County residents will then have an opportunity to vote on the tax in the Nov. 8 election. The tax would be collected April 15 to Oct. 15.

In response to the proposed tax, the Grants Pass City Council voted on Monday to include language in the same ballot measure to reduce their current public safety levy, if the county tax is approved.

Josephine County Commissioner Dan DeYoung said at Wednesday’s meeting that the total revenue from the tax is uncertain.

“When we talk about how much money this is going to raise, we’re absolutely not sure either,” DeYoung said.

Grants Pass currently has a three-year public safety levy with a tax rate of $1.79 per $1,000. If the county tax is approved, that rate would be reduced by $1.


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