County tries to iron out odd wrinkles in school funding

Three school districts outside of Multnomah County will share in the money generated by the county's new income tax, and taxpayers in a fourth district may get a rebate.

The tax, which voters approved last week, will spread the proceeds among eight Multnomah County school districts. But several hundred Multnomah County residents live in four school districts that weren't mentioned in the measure. In other words, they're supposed to pay the tax even though the schools in their districts won't benefit.

But now Multnomah County officials are devising ways to make sure that those schools either get some of the tax money or the taxpayers themselves get something back.

No decisions have been made. But plans are in the works for payments to three districts Lake Oswego, Scappoose and Hillsboro and tax rebates for taxpayers in another, Beaverton. County officials have earmarked $200,000 to cover these costs for each of the three years the tax will be in place.

'This is the right thing to do,' said Diane Linn, chairwoman of the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners. 'You don't want people paying for things they don't get benefits for.'

The numbers aren't huge. There are about 90 Multnomah County residents attending Beaverton schools, 85 in Scappoose schools, 27 in Lake Oswego schools and three in Hillsboro schools.

Making things right won't be complicated when it comes to the Multnomah County taxpayers in the Scappoose, Lake Oswego and Hillsboro school districts.

Dave Boyer, the Multnomah County finance director, said those districts could be compensated for each Multnomah County resident they teach. The amount per student will be calculated by the state school distribution formula using the amount raised by the income tax and the number of students involved a figure that probably will wind up somewhere close to $900 per student.

Multnomah County will then give the Scappoose, Lake Oswego and Hillsboro school districts a share of the tax money based on the number of Multnomah County students they teach. The payments will be made annually for the three-year life of the county income tax.

The circumstances are a bit more complicated for Multnomah County residents who live in the Beaverton School District. Those who own property are getting hit with two taxes because Beaverton School District voters approved new property taxes on May 20.

'We may be able to create some kind of rebate for the portion (of the Multnomah County tax) they pay for schools,' Boyer said. 'They'd still be responsible for the public safety and health side, though.'

The county is still gathering information from the Oregon Department of Revenue on exactly how many residents will have to pay both the Multnomah County income tax and Beaverton school property tax.

But instead of letting them get hit twice by new taxes, Multnomah County should kick back to them the share of their county income tax payment designated for schools, Linn said.

Linn and Multnomah County officials are talking to the neighboring school districts about the best way to right the inequities and the best legal method, if any, for carrying it out. They might need an intergovernmental agreement, a memorandum of understanding or perhaps, Linn said, nothing at all.

Contact Don Hamilton This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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