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Washington County taxes likely to net almost $1B

Those taxes will bring in 5.1 percent — or $47 million — more

Returns from the 2015-16 property tax statements that were mailed last week will net Washington County almost $1 billion for 63 local government agencies.

That total is $47 million more — 5.1 percent — than collected in the previous year.

The county Assessment and Taxation Department mailed about 192,000 statements last week and initial payments are due by Nov. 16. Taxpayers who pay the entire amount qualify for a 3 percent discount, but they can also pay in three installments.

While most homeowners will pay that additional 3 percent more, some will pay up to 5 percent more, and about 16,000 accounts will pay even more than that. About 15,000 accounts will pay a little less than the previous year, mostly because of expiring levies that were not renewed or replaced.

Of the projected $963 million to be collected, the largest share (48.4 percent) will go to school districts, education service districts and Portland Community College. Cities and special districts split 32.3 percent almost equally for neighborhood services; countywide services will get 16.8 percent; and the rest goes to Metro, TriMet and the Port of Portland.

Washington County has 311 combinations of tax code areas.

Under a series of statewide ballot measures that voters approved in the 1990s, Oregon set overall limits on rates for education ($5 per $1,000 of value) and for all other local governments ($10), and also limited growth in assessed (taxable) value of property to 3 percent annually. Those values are set as of Jan. 1.

Why more?

Rich Hobernicht, the county director of assessment and taxation, said there are several explanations why some property taxpayers will pay more than the average 3 percent increase.

Taxpayers may pay more because voters approved bond issues or local-option levies for some local governments. Bond issues are excluded from the overall rate limits. Local-option levies must stay within those limits, but can exceed the permanent taxing authority of a local government for a specified period.

Among those with new bonds this year are Portland (for city parks and recreation projects), and the West Linn-Wilsonville School District. Only parts of those areas are within Washington County.

More local governments have new or renewed local-option levies this year. They are Cornelius and King City, Lake Oswego, Portland, Tigard-Tualatin and West Linn-Wilsonville school districts, and Banks, Gaston and Tualatin Valley fire districts.

If Washington County voters on Nov. 3 pass five-year levies for library services (Measure 35-235) and public safety (Measure 34-236), those taxes will appear on the 2016-17 tax statements — not this year’s bills. The first levy proposes a slight rate increase, from 17 to 22 cents; the second levy would maintain a rate of 42 cents.

Hobernicht said some property taxpayers also may see increases because of a drop in “compression,” which occurs when operating taxes for local governments exceed the statewide limits of $5 for education and $10 for all other governments.

About $13.1 million went uncollected for local governments in 2014-15 — all but $500,000 of that for school districts — but that total will drop to about $12.6 million in the 2015-16 year which starts July 1.

Hobernicht said that as real market values dropped over the past few years and assessed values rose, it triggered compression — but as real market values grow again, as they are now, they could also result in higher tax bills.

Value growth

The average real market value of a home in Washington County as of Jan. 1 was $334,712, up 5.3 percent from $317,934 the previous year. Hobernicht said the latest figure is still less than the peak of $343,670 for an average home on Jan. 1, 2007.

The average assessed value of a home was $244,150, up 3.4 percent from $236,139 the previous year.

The real market value of all property countywide this year was $91 billion. For assessed value, the total rose 6.3 percent from $53.5 billion to $56.9 billion this year. About two-thirds of that total is residential property, including farm and forest land.

Property taxpayers may file appeals of either their assessed values or real market values by Dec. 31. They cannot appeal their tax bills.

Information about the appeal process can be found on Washington County’s website (www.co.washington.or.us) or call the Appraisal Division at 503-846-8826.


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