Lower value, higher taxes

Property values have plummeted, but homeowners discovered this week that taxes still are going up.

The Jackson County Department of Assessment sent out property-tax statements that will need to be paid by Nov. 17 to get a discount.

Assessor Dan Ross said half the properties will see their real-market value, which is an estimate of the market value, decline by 6-9 percent. Another 19 percent will see values drop by 13-15 percent. And the rest will drop less than 5 percent. These declines were based on an analysis of market conditions in January.

At the same time, the assessed value, which is used to calculate taxes, is going up by a maximum 3 percent, which will result in higher taxes.

The main question Ross has been receiving is, "Why don't the taxes go down if the property is worth less?"

He said Measure 50, passed in 1997, established a predictable taxing structure that isn't influenced by fluctuations in the market.

When property values were increasing by 20 percent annually a few years ago, Ross said, homeowners weren't calling them wondering why their taxes weren't going up a similar amount.

"Now that it is reversed, they think the system should change for them," he said.

Under Measure 50, which modified the Oregon Constitution, assessed value can drop only if the real-market value declines by more than 50 percent.

If the real-market value declined by 15 percent each year, it would take until the 2012-2013 tax year to see a 50-percent reduction, he said.

Ross said a preliminary analysis of market-value declines from March through August show another 10- to 24-percent decline.

It is possible the declines this year, coupled with more declines next year, could mean some areas in the county could go down 50 percent, which would result in lower taxes in the future, Ross said.

However, he added, it is difficult to predict future market conditions.

There are other changes to the property tax statement the assessor is bringing to the attention of the public.

A one-time rise in assessments for rural areas, because of a surcharge for wildfire suppression, will show an increase from $38 to $47.50 on properties with homes and other improvements. The minimum assessment for unimproved lots will increase from $18 to $18.75.

Rates for the youth-activity levy in Ashland should decline slightly because the levy is being paid by all the property owners in the school district, rather than just those within the city limits.

Ross said residents will see a slight dip in the 27-cents-per-$1,000 rate they've been paying for Jackson County Urban Renewal. On a home with an average-assessed valuation of $167,000, that will translate into $45 less in taxes, Ross said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com.

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