One Reason Your Property Taxes Skyrocketed - New Bond Measures

by Tonkon Torp LLP
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Tonkon Torp LLP

Contrary to popular belief, Oregon law does not limit property tax increases to three percent per year. If you received a property tax statement this year, you may have learned this the hard way. Overall tax rates are now at a 20 year high and this trend will continue unless there is a significant legislative fix.

While many newspapers are reporting that these increases are the result of newly passed bond measures, the Multnomah County Assessor recently told me, "This only explains the rate side of the equation." In other words – it's not the whole story. I agree.

Throughout this month I will be writing a number of articles explaining several other reasons property taxes have been skyrocketing. And, while there's nothing individuals can do to change their overall tax rate (except move), we can often change other parts of the equation to reduce your property taxes.

So stay tuned.

Below is my summary of three recently passed bond measures that are causing the most pain for property taxpayers in the Metro area. I have included links with additional information throughout. All tax rates are stated as amount per $1,000 of assessed value.

Portland Public School – Bond Measure 26-193 – to improve health, safety, and learning by modernizing and repairing schools – was approved by voters in May 2017. 

  • Last year's rate for existing bonds = $1.0623.
  • This year's rate for existing bonds plus this new bond = $2.4182.
  • Net Increase = $1.559 (much higher than estimated by the voter impact statement).
  • This Bond is estimated to impact taxpayers for 30 years.

Gresham Barlow School District – Measure 26-187 – to increase safety, technology, expanding education, and vocational opportunities – was approved by voters in November 2016.

  • Last year's rate for existing bonds = $0.9846.
  • This year's rate for existing plus new bonds = $2.6132.
  • Net Increase = $1.6286.
  • Estimated to impact taxpayers for 21 years. 

Lake Oswego School District – Measure 3-515 – for improvements, curriculum support facilities, and safety and technology updates – was approved by voters in May 2017.

  • Last year's rate for existing bonds = $0.9490.
  • This year's rate for existing plus new bonds = $2.0888.
  • Net Increase = $1.1398.
  • Estimated to impact taxpayers for 26 years.

Reynolds School District and Beaverton School District also saw larger increases in existing bonds, which will likely generate calls from bewildered taxpayers to the County Assessor.

Going forward, more should be done to analyze and provide a clearer picture of the impact new bond measures will have on property taxpayers. As I reviewed the voter impact statements (and news coverage) that explained these Measures to voters, I was struck by how difficult it was to follow the tax implications and how wrong the predictions were in some cases.

Overall tax rates jumped from an average of $20 per $1,000 of Assessed Value to $25 per $1,000 this year. Did voters really understand that this would happen or that it could continue for the next 15-20 years? Given the amount of outrage taxpayers are expressing so far this year, the answer would appear to be no.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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