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Commission divvies up Gain Share funds

Washington County officials fought hard to preserve their share of the state Gain Share program at the 2013 Oregon Legislature, and county residents have been learning why over the past few weeks.

County commissioners have been finalizing how they intend to spend around $88 million in funds from the state over the next five years. They have agreed on a wide-ranging series of limited duration programs and projects that are not included in the current budget.

Among the first appropriations this year will be approximately $3 million to public schools in the county and $250,000 for the Community Housing Fund, which helps finance affordable housing projects. Other tentative allocations include nearly $3.4 million for county facility and information technology upgrades and $2 million for the design of a new event center and Veterans Plaza at the Washington County Fairgrounds.

The Washington County Visitors Association has pledged $1 million to the event center, which has an estimated price tag of approximately $20 million to complete.

A number of transportation-related projects are also slated to be funded, including $3 million worth of pedestrians and bicycle safety projects, and $1.5 million in traffic congestion and growth mitigation work.

The Washington County Museum may also receive some funds to help complete its archive building at Portland Community College’s Rock Creek campus.

Most of the amounts are still tentative. The commission is expected to make final decisions when more detailed cost estimates are submitted.

The housing fund allocation was final, however. It needed to be approved by Dec. 3 to meet a federal deadline.

Schools in Washington County are expected to receive a total of $5 million in Gain Share funds in each of the next five years. The balance will come from other jurisdictions — including the city of Hillsboro — receiving these funds from the state.

The 2007 Oregon Legislature created the Gain Share program for local jurisdictions that waive a portion of their property taxes to attract new business investments that save or create jobs. The Legislature agreed to send 50 percent of the state income taxes generated by the jobs back to the jurisdiction.

Before the start of the 2013 Oregon Legislature, some lawmakers began arguing that share was too high and proposed reducing the percentage. Officials within the county responded that the 50 percent did not completely make up for the waived property taxes, and successfully argued that the state should keep its promise.

The commissioners are still concerned that in the future, legislators could cut the share, however, and have agreed not to begin programs that would require long-term funding with Gain Share money.



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