Legislators introduce ideas for school funding, urban growth

Two bills related to Washington County were heard in the opening days of the 2014 Oregon Legislature.

On Wednesday the House Revenue Committee heard a bill introduced by state Rep. Ben Unger (D-Hillsboro) to exempt property taxes for public schools and Education Service Districts from waivers to encourage local economic development and urban renewal programs. Unger said HB 4141 would improve schools by providing hundreds of millions of dollars of additional funding in the future.

The bill was supported by current and former teachers and school board members from Washington County. It was opposed by the Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce and various city and county officials who said such waivers had attracted businesses that created good paying jobs and generated additional taxes.

A number of county assessors said the bill as written was too hard to administer. Unger said he is preparing amendments for the bill because it will not pass in its current form. Committee Chairman Phil Barnhart said another hearing will be held when they are ready.

The day before, the House Committee on Rural Communities took testimony on two bills to speed final approval of urban growth boundary expansions in the county. Metro approved around 2,000 acres for development in 2011, but the decision is tied up in the Oregon Court of Appeals. HB 4078 would ratify the expansions. A proposed amendment would require the appeals court to rule on UGB expansions within 150 days.

Supporters, including sponsor state Rep. John Davis (R-Wilsonville), says something must be done to fix Oregon’s broken land-use planning system. Opponents, including former Democratic Oregon 1st Congressional Rep. Elizabeth Furse, argued the appeals process must be allowed to run its course. Furse is running against Washington County Commissioner Bob Terry.

A second hearing is scheduled Feb. 11.

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