Metro Councilors on Tuesday put a dollar figure on a potential levy to fund maintenance at the Portland region's parks and natural areas.
The councilors gave a unanimous thumbs-up to a tax rate of 9.6 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation for the potential levy. They're scheduled to decide later this month whether to put the levy on the May 2013 ballot.
Their non-binding decision to shoot for 9.6 cents per $1,000 came after a lengthy report on compression, a quirk of Oregon's property tax system that could limit how much Metro collects on a potential levy.
Statewide property tax laws passed in the 1990s limit the amount of money governments can collect for operating expenses, including the levy Metro is proposing for natural areas maintenance, with the limit based on a property's real market value.
In some parts of the region, those values have plummeted in the last few years, causing compression to limit the amount of money governments can collect for levies. That's why some property owners have seen their property tax bills decrease, even as their assessed value – also set by a formula from the 1990s tax laws – has increased.
Brian Kennedy, a finance manager at Metro, said a rough look at the region's property taxes indicates Metro would raise a little more than $1 million annually for each cent of a levy, if voters approve it and it starts being collected in 2013.
If compression goes away – which can be prompted by an increase in properties' real market values – that number could be higher.
"Part of what you have to think about with compression is what you think is going to happen with real estate values," said Metro chief operating officer Martha Bennett.
Compression could also become less of a factor if the state implements tax reform. But Councilor Barbara Roberts, Oregon's governor from 1991-95, didn't seem optimistic.
"When we finish at the state level with health care reform, PERS reform and education reform, maybe somebody will get around to tax reform," she said.
Metro Council President Tom Hughes said he felt like 9.6 cents per $1,000 rate was probably ideal.
"That means the median household of $200,000 value would pay $19.20 a year," Hughes said.
The 9.6 cents per $1,000 number was less than the 10 to 12 cents recommended by an advisory panel convened earlier this year.
The council is scheduled to decide whether to send the levy to the voters at its Dec. 18 meeting.
(Nov. 27, 2012)
(July 24, 2012)