Voters in Both Counties Say No to Funding Extension Service District

Voters and Umatilla and Morrow counties voted against forming a taxing district to provide a local funding source for the Oregon State University Extension Service. (Photo: File)

Umatilla and Morrow county residents voted Tuesday night against forming and paying for service districts for the Oregon State University Extension Service.

In Umatilla County, the measure failed with 7,751 “no” votes (63 percent) and 4,529 “yes” votes (37 percent). In Morrow County, the measure failed with 1,009 “no” votes (54 percent) and 874 “yes” votes (46 percent).

If the ballot measures to form the districts had passed, taxpayer money – proposed at 33 cents per $1,000 of assessed value – would have supported additional staff, utilities and maintenance among other things. The extension service has had to deal with state and federal budget cuts over the years and was told by Oregon State University that extension services would need to find as much as 25 percent of their funding from local sources.

Forming taxing districts was the likeliest way to get more local funding, said Phil Hamm, director of the Hermiston Agriculture Research and Experiment Center.

Hamm said he and the measure’s supporters are disappointed.

“Given what happened last night, there seems to be a clear message that folks do not want higher taxes,” Hamm said. Hamm said the results were not a reflection of how voters view the extension service, but more likely it showed people are not aware of the extent of what the service does for the youth and ag community.

While talking about the measure during the spring, Hamm said voters “strongly value the work that Extension does in their communities, although often they did not realize the breath of the work we do – particularly around nutrition and healthy lifestyles.”

Hamm said time will tell what direction the effort to secure more funding takes.

“We look forward to taking some time to visit with our advisory groups and the county commissioners in the next month to assess what our next steps should be going forward,” he said.