It’s difficult to get property taxpayers to support higher taxes in normal times and even harder during the current recession.
So you might be surprised to learn that citizens of Multnomah County recently voted for property tax increases in the November elections!
While this election wasn’t exactly a referendum for unlimited property tax increases, county residents voted yes on three measures to support Multnomah County libraries, the Oregon Historical Society, and the Portland Fire Bureau.
Voters strongly supported a measure that could ultimately lead to a separate taxing entity to pay for the county library system. The library system is very popular and officials say that libraries are used by a lot more residents during a recession. The system is so popular that it has been routinely funded through special tax levies every five years by the voters. The new measure on the ballot this year was designed to create a more permanent source of funding by creating a special taxing district.
County residents also supported a five year levy to support the Oregon Historical Society. This increase will cover adding a few staff members and expanding the hours of the library.
Finally, voters narrowly approved a bond to raise $72 million for the Portland Fire Bureau. This bond will cover new rigs, radios, a fire station, and an emergency response center. Officials noted that voters love firefighters and typically show them strong public support by voting for new taxes to fund firefighting operations.
While on the surface, these property tax increases may not seem unusual, they are significant for two reasons. First, because voters approved them during a down economy and second because Multnomah County property taxes continue to increase even as property values plummet.
Multnomah County property tax increases in the current slow economy are caused by Measure 50 – a constitutional amendment approved in 1995 that held values down during the boom years but it has also allowed assessment increases of up to 3% per year during the recent years with depressed prices. This will continue for several more years until home values decrease and become more in line with assessed values.
Regardless of whether you support property tax increases where you live, it is interesting to see Multnomah County residents supporting any increases during the current recession and at a time when they are still dealing with 3% increases in the assessed value of their home.