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Property tax changes lead cities' priorities

League outlines agenda for 2015 Legislature.


Changes in Oregon’s 2-decade-old property tax limits lead the list of 2015 legislative priorities for the League of Oregon Cities.

Also on the list are more money for street maintenance and other transportation needs, clarification of marijuana laws, protection of cities’ authority to charge for use of public rights of way, and more aid for mental health programs.

Lawmakers allowed cities and counties to impose one-year moratoriums after they authorized the state to license dispensaries for medical marijuana. The limit expires next spring.

The league also seeks funding for long-term water supply needs and issues relating to municipal water rights.

The league sponsored a detailed proposal for property tax changes during the 2013 session, but it failed to advance beyond hearings of House and Senate committees.

The proposal, because it amends the Oregon Constitution, would have to go to voters statewide.

The proposal called for two changes.

One change would allow local governments to seek voter approval of local-option tax levies that exceed the statewide limits, which were set in 1990.

The limits are $5 per $1,000 of taxable value for schools and other education districts, and $10 per $1,000 for all other local governments combined. According to a 2013 report by the league, more than half of Oregon’s 242 cities have bumped up against the combined limit.

The local-option tax levy could not exceed five years, unless voters renewed it.

The other change would allow the taxable value of property, known as assessed value, to be reset to "real market value" when property is sold. Unlike California’s Proposition 13 in 1978, which allow taxable values to be reset upon property sales, Oregon’s Measure 5 in 1990 and Measure 47 in 1996 do not allow such resets.

In addition to those changes, the League of Oregon Cities wants to include new methods of assigning taxable values to property added to the tax rolls. Current methods of assigning values are tied to mid-1990s levels.

On transportation funding, cities received some new dollars for street maintenance in 2011, after the state gasoline tax went up from 24 to 30 cents per gallon. It was the first new money for cities since 1993.

Craig Honeyman, legislative director for the league, says cities are part of the Oregon Transportation Forum, formerly known as the Oregon Highway User Coalition. Group members are discussing elements of a transportation funding plan they hope to present to lawmakers next year.

At a minimum, Honeyman said, cities want funding to be “sustainable” – the gasoline tax linked to some measure of inflation. He also says the current division of highway money should be maintained among cities, counties and the states, and that a $1 million account for cities of fewer than 5,000 population be increased.

peterwong@PortlandTribune

(503) 385-4899

twitter.com/capitolwong