Economy reflected in property tax statements

Taxes have dropped on almost 13,000 properties in Jackson County this year as the recession's grip tightens.

However, most of the 99,246 properties that receive tax statements in Jackson County experienced increases, but at a lower level than in recent memory.

"It's the lowest I have ever seen," said county Assessor Dan Ross.

The Assessor's Office sent out property tax statements that confirm what most county residents already know — real estate has been hard hit.

The real market value, an estimate of what a property could sell for, declined an average 14 percent in the county compared to last year.

Some Eagle Point subdivisions plummeted 26 percent in value on average. Subdivisions in Central Point declined by 23 percent. West Medford dropped 24 percent.

The amount of uncollected taxes is expected to almost double, from $587,900 last year to $1 million this year.

Property tax bills for all taxing bodies in the county totalled 1.68 percent above last year, amounting to $237 million for the county, cities, schools, fire districts and other taxing agencies.

In 2009 the increase was 3.7 percent and in 2008 it was 10.7 percent, fueled in part by school bond measures.

Property taxes can rise by a maximum 3 percent annually, not counting bonds, levies and other taxes approved by voters. In addition, new construction adds to property tax revenues.

In 1997, voters approved Measure 50, which established a base point for all Oregon properties. Each year the assessed value, which is the basis for calculating property taxes, is increased 3 percent.

The largest single property taxpayer in the county is PacifiCorp at almost $2.6 million, followed by the Rogue Valley Manor and Carestream Health Inc., each at about $1.1 million.

Ross said other counties in the state have been hit even harder in anticipated property tax collections. While Jackson County reported a small increase, Crook County, for example, expects to drop 1 percent.

In past years, a combination of annual property tax increases and new construction consistently brought in about 5 percent more in revenues each year in Jackson County.

More declines in property values are predicted and could have an impact on next year's tax statements, Ross said.

Scott Fraedrick, chief appraiser for the Assessor's Office, said most areas of the county showed drops in market value.

As a result of the lower tax rates, he said his office has had fewer wcomplaints about tax statements so far.

"It has been real quiet," he said.

Taxing districts, however, are looking at the downward trend with some alarm. Jackson County Fire District No. 3 is crunching its numbers to see how it will affect its budget.

"It is a little bit of a hit compared to what we were expecting," said fire Chief Dan Peterson. "It is going to impact us."

He said the fire district will be going over the budget situation today, so he didn't have numbers to release yet. The district depends on property taxes, receiving about $12 million in revenues annually.

Harvey Bragg, assistant county administrator, said he didn't anticipate problems for the county because he made a conservative calculation of the tax revenues when he put together the 2010-11 budget.

He had estimated that $31.1 million would be collected, while the actual amount billed came in at $32.4 million.

Bragg said the county used to rely on 4 to 5 percent increases annually.

"At this point, based on the trend lines, it doesn't look like we can count on another big increase," he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476, or e-mail

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