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Bond masures passed in 2000, combined with the coming election, has voters worried about a clash of property taxes

Sam Aldrich, 70, says if property taxes keep going up, he might be forced to move. The Medford resident pays $2,500 a year in property taxes and expects to pay another $200 to 300 if two bond measures pass Nov. 5. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell — — — —

Recent property tax hikes spawned by a series of voter-approved bonds and levies have left some homeowners saying enough is enough.

With the 2002-03 statements scheduled to be mailed just 11 days before the Nov. 5 election, Rogue Community College and the Medford School District are nervously watching voter reaction to two separate bond measures on the ballot that total &

36;119 million.

If this is approved, I will have to think of moving, said Medford resident Sam Aldrich. I just can't afford it.

He and other property owners say they're being forced to carry the burden of anteing up more money to compensate for the Legislature's failure to solve Oregon's revenue shortfalls.

Aldrich pays &

36;2,500 a year in property taxes and expects to pay &

36;200 to &

36;300 more if both bond measures pass.

I'm 70, he said. Older people on a fixed income, I don't know how they're going to afford it. I'm a senior citizen and this hurts me.

He's not opposed to taxes in general, and he's not opposed to schools needing improvements.

I would be more in favor of a sales tax, he said. It's the only fair way to hit everybody.

Jackson County voters approved &

36;146 million worth of bonds in 2000 alone, including &

36;39 million for expansion of Jackson County libraries, &

36;16.5 million for a juvenile justice center, and school construction projects in Central Point, Rogue River, Phoenix-Talent and Eagle Point.

As a result, areas such as Eagle Point saw tax bills jump 52.6 percent in 2001, and others like Central Point rose 12.8 percent.

Property tax statements are going out Friday, and while no major increases are expected from last year, a combination of a poor economy and the glut of bond measures in 2000 could hurt current bond campaigns.

Medford School Board Chairman Mike Moran said that with the downturn in the economy, the timing might not be the best for the district's &

36;79 million bond measure that would pay for a skills center, middle school and upgrades to the two high schools.

The cost to property owners would be 96 cents per &

36;1,000 of assessed valuation for the next 26 years. On a home assessed at &

36;150,000, this would amount to &

36;144 annually.

I sympathize with people who are finding it more difficult to pay, especially fixed-income people, said Moran.

While the district has no other solution but to ask voters to pay more, Moran hopes lawmakers finally find a way to resolve Oregon's overall funding crisis.

I hope the taxpayers will take on a bit extra, and the Legislature will come through for them and for our kids, he said.

Medford school board member Peggy Penland, who noticed on her mortgage statement that &

36;200 more a year will be collected in property taxes on her home, agreed that homeowners were being hit too hard locally.

However, she said Oregon ranks No. 46 in the United States in overall taxes collected, giving the state a lot of latitude in tax collection ' but it would have to distributed more evenly among income, property and sales taxes.

Her school district has no choice but to seek the bond because more students enroll every year.

Sixty-three percent of the state is losing enrollment and we're in a part of the state that is gaining enrollment, she said.

To accommodate the influx of new students, the district has only one method of raising money for new schools: property taxes.

Retired Medford resident Chuck Holden, 76, who owns a house assessed at &

36;425,000, said more than half his &

36;4,884 in property taxes already go to schools and he's reached his limit and won't support any more taxation.

They are going to keep saying next year that they want more and more for schools and they're going to want more money and it's going to go on and on, he said. We have to control the spending. We need to realize how much this is going to cost.

For Medford schools, Holden said his 2000-2001 tax bill shows he contributed &

36;1,873. In addition, he spent &

36;311 on bonds.

If the bond measure passed, he calculates he would be paying another &

36;407 to Medford schools.

He also pays property taxes to RCC and the Jackson Education Service District, bringing his total payments to schools of &

36;2,550.

While Holden supports the idea of a skills center and more schools, he said how to finance them needs more study.

Margaret Bradford, spokesperson for RCC, said the college has little choice but to ask voters to pass the &

36;40 million bond measure.

Still, she said, We're not insensitive to the impact to voters. We are taxpayers, too.

Enrollment at the Medford campus has surpassed the college's original campus in Grants Pass.

With no room left to grow, RCC's only option, she said, is to ask for the voters' help.

The bond would be paid through 25 cents per &

36;1,000 of assessed valuation, or &

36;38 on a &

36;150,000 home.

Bradford said seniors have often been the most concerned about the additional financial impact.

However, she said they will also benefit from the education provided by RCC.

They might have an auto repairman who was trained at RCC, she said. They might have a nurse who treats or takes care of seniors who was trained at RCC.

RCC trains people, some of whom might otherwise go on welfare, to be contributing members of society, she said.

There is a direct economic benefit to senior citizens even though they don't have students in school, she said.

Retired Medford resident Lloyd Clodfelter, 66, supports the bond measures, but wants the system changed.

Clodfelter, who points out he's a native Oregonian and Republican, said the time has come to consider a limited sales tax.

We can't keep tying everything to people's property taxes or income tax, he said.

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

One man's tax bill Medford resident Chuck Holden itemized his 2000-01 property tax bill of &

36;4,884 to show that more than 50 percent (&

36;2,550) goes to schools. His total property tax is based on assessed valuation of &

36;424,630.

Education Service District: &

36;149

RCC: &

36;217

Medford schools: &

36;1,873

Jackson County: &

36;853

Vector Control: &

36;18

County special levy: &

36;112

Fire District No. 2: &

36;1,058

Rogue Valley Transit District: &

36;75

Medford schools bonds: &

36;311

Jackson County Bond: &

36;162

Fire surcharge &

36;38

Fire patrol: &

36;18

If Medford schools' new bond measure passes, Holden will pay &

36;407 extra.

If RCC's bond passes, he will pay &

36;106 more.

Other property owners might not pay as high a percentage as Holden. The Jackson County Department of Assessment breaks down where the average tax dollar goes: 43.45 percent for schools; 21.95 percent for cities; 16.06 percent for county; 9.17 percent for urban renewal; 7.93 percent for fire districts; and 1.46 percent for other services.

Existing bond issues The following are bonds currently being paid by Jackson County voters (depending on where they live) and when they were approved:

&

36;39 million over 20 years for Jackson County libraries, 2000.

&

36;17 million over 10 years for juvenile justice center, 2000.

&

36;30 million over 21 years for Central Point schools, 2000.

&

36;16 million over 20 years for Phoenix-Talent schools, 2000.

&

36;34 million over 20 years for Eagle Point schools, 2000.

&

36;5 million over 19 years for Rogue River schools, 2000.

&

36;5 million over three years for Ashland youth activities levy, 2000.

&

36;35 million over about 17 years for Medford schools, 1995.

Voters also have approved several other levies that benefit local fire and police departments and service districts.

Sam Aldrich, 70, says if property taxes keep going up, he might be forced to move. The Medford resident pays $2,500 a year in property taxes and expects to pay another $200 to 300 if two bond measures pass Nov. 5. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell - Mail Tribune images