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Property Tax Increases Approved In Deschutes Co. Budget

BEND, OR -- Deschutes County’s budget committee has finalized its recommendations for the next fiscal year, and it includes big property tax increases for law enforcement services. 

County Commissioner Phil Chang says he’s frustrated with the increase requested by Sheriff Shane Nelson to max out DCSO's tax rate: 17 cents more per $1,000 of assessed property value, countywide, and an additional 12 cents for rural properties. "So, very dramatic tax increases. They are needed to sustain the current level of service and make a few strategic investments," Chang tells KBND News, "The problem is, we should have seen this coming - we should have seen the fiscal cliff a few years out, and then slowly dialing up these assessed rates." He estimates homeowners will see tax increases of around $90 for law enforcement.

The Sheriff had also asked for money from the transient room tax and federal land payments. That request was denied, while the tax increase was approved. 

Chang says funding the courthouse expansion is a top priority for county coffers, "We’d like to put $10 million down on the courthouse, so we have to borrow $10 million less." But he says property tax reductions in 2018 and 2019 left reserve accounts without the money for such a large project. "At this point, that is costing the county $1.8 million per year in missed revenue. While, for a homeowner like myself, it maybe saves us $15." He adds, "Because we haven’t been collecting those tax revenues, we’re going to have to borrow $10 million more now than we would’ve had to. And that $10 million over the course of our debt service is going to cost us another $6.2 million in interest payments. To pay $16 million over the next 20 years instead of having the $10 million in the bank right now, it’s disappointing." 

The budget committee approved using money from the county’s American Rescue Plan (ARPA) allocation. "That’s going to provide close to $5 million of the $10 million we’re trying to cobble together," says Chang.

The budget committee is made up of all three county commissioners and three members of the public. During final budget committee deliberations Thursday, Chang voted against an 11% pay hike for himself and other county elected officials, saying county staff only received a 4% cost of living increase. He was outvoted and the pay increase was approved. 

County Commissioners still need to formally approve the budget prior to the start of the next fiscal year in July.  

 

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