In May, Umatilla and Morrow County voters will decide whether to add two new districts to the tax rolls, which would fund support staff and operations for the Oregon State University Extension Service.
If passed, the districts would add 33 cents per $1,000 to taxpayers’ bills. In Umatilla County, the tax would yield about $1.7 million, and in Morrow, about $700,000. For a $150,000 home, it would add about $49.50 to an annual tax statement.
As the vote approaches, locals are looking at how the district will impact their tax bill, as well as the services it would provide.
Mary Corp, the Extension Service’s regional administrator, has been discussing the tax with various groups in both counties. If passed, the tax would go toward increasing education programs such as 4-H and hiring field support staff for the extension service, as well as some structural improvements.
“You can only use supplies and defer maintenance for so long,” she said.
She said so far, reception for the idea has been fairly positive.
“People have been very receptive and interested in learning more about the idea,” she said.
She said there has been some concern about compression, and how adding a new taxing district would affect other districts.
“It really varies tax lot by tax lot what the impact would be,” she said. “There has been some concern in Milton-Freewater, [which is] not currently under compression. In that local government pool, if the extension was added, it would put them at about $8, a couple of dollars under the cap.”
Umatilla County Assessor Paul Chalmers said voters can look at their own tax statements and calculate how the extension district tax will affect them. Taxpayers can find their own tax code area on their property tax statement, then go to the county website and access the tax rates for everything in their code area. The tax rates are available at www.co.umatilla.or.us/at/index.html. Compression, as set by Measure 5 and Measure 50, limits government taxes to $10 per $1,000 of assessed value. That number does not include schools, which have a separate compression rate.
Because taxpayers are limited to that $10 cap, those in areas that are already at that level will not see an increase in their overall taxes. Instead the amounts paid to individual tax districts will be compressed to fit under the limit, which means less money for ambulance districts, library districts and others in areas in compression.
“Part of the irony with the property tax system now is that people can calculate and figure out that it’s not going to affect them, but they still get to vote on it,” Chalmers said.
Compression is more likely to be triggered in incorporated areas, such as the city of Hermiston or Pendleton, because city taxes often make up a large chunk of government-related taxes.
Corp said the extension service has always had financial support at the county level. State and federal dollars have been directed toward faculty and science positions, and local dollars were often sent toward support staff, rent and utilities. Money for those services has always come out of county general funds, she said. Even if voters approve the district, the county may still allot some funds to the extension service.