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Oregon Timber and Property Taxes: another view, or two, or three, ….

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One of my library patrons expressed some curiosity about the relative property tax rates of different Oregon counties (and cities). This was prompted by reading the “timber money” article in Sunday’s Oregonian, where a resident of Grants Pass/Josephine County was quoted as saying that local residents pay a property tax rate of $.58/$1,000 (see below for excerpts from the article).

And a few weeks ago, a speaker on Think Out Loud noted that the residents of his county paid nothing for the services of their sheriff’s department (it has been paid for out of the taxpayer-supported timber payments). (Compare this with my law library’s Washington County where the residents in the past two elections voted in special levies for Sheriff’s Department services.)

So, how does one compare the local taxes people across the state pay, including counties that want federal timber money, counties with Indian reservations, counties with prisons, with farmland, with desert, etc.?

It isn’t a perfect comparison, if there is such a thing, but, to start, I looked at this report to try for some perspective: Oregon Property Tax Statistics (2006-07), from the Oregon Department of Revenue (and used the County Permanent Rate to compare). Other reports are here.

(Actual property tax rates (with school and other special districts, levies, etc.) can hike those numbers up considerably, e.g.: in Hillsboro: “…. The average tax rate Hillsboro residents pay Washington County is approximately $15.2914/$1000 of taxable assessed value. Of that rate, the City of Hillsboro receives $4.7665 for 2004-2005 including a local option tax to enhance service levels for Police, Fire and Parks and Recreation maintenance….” (from here).)

Baker: 3.7286/1,000

Clackamas: 2.9766/1,000

Columbia: 1.39561,000

Curry: 0.5996/1,000

Josephine: 0.5867/1,000

Lane County: 1.2793/1,000

Marian County: 3.0252/1,000

Multnomah County: 4.3434/1,000

Sherman: 8.7141/1,000

Umatilla County: 2.8487/1,000

Wasco: 4.2524/1,000

Washington: 2.2484/1,000

Wheeler: 8.2566/1,000

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Grants Pass/Josephine County: from Oregonian story:

Cutoff of timber money pinches rural Oregon: With the cost of living rising, tax hikes aren’t likely to shore up county budgets, Sunday, June 29, 2008, by Harry Esteve:

Big, new homes fringe the city. A new resort lodge has risen on the banks of the city’s biggest tourist draw, the Rogue River. And a renovated downtown teems with shoppers on a recent weekday afternoon.

The new growth hasn’t added much to the county’s coffers, however, because of the county’s low tax rate. Knowing the timber money could dry up, the county winnowed the staff from 700 to 400, closed libraries and started charging fees to use parks. The budget had largely stabilized, county Commissioner Dave Toler says.

Now, it’s headed off a cliff, Toler says. Of the county’s general fund, a full 67 percent — about $12 million — had come from the federal timber payments.

The effect could be a further slowdown in the city’s economic growth, Toler and other officials say. People move to Grants Pass because they like the mild climate, the rugged backdrop, the rolling waters of the Rogue and the relatively low cost of living.
But they expect the full slate of government services.

The county has proposed two new tax levies — one for rural sheriff patrols and a broader-based one that would include Grants Pass residents as well. Mitchell says the higher property taxes would be fair, given the county’s “ridiculously low” rate of 58 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. To the south, in Jackson County, for example, the rate is $2, nearly four times as high….”
(full story)
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Lots of food for thought.