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Tax bills correct, even though they're wrong

Shady Cove Mayor Tom Anderson knew something was wrong when his recent property tax bill showed he was paying &

36;987.90 for urban renewal.

It should have been a lot less than that, he said.

Anderson had expected property taxes to go down this year after last year's 26.7 percent jump, but instead the total bill ' &

36;5,200 ' had gone up by — percent.

Anderson, who said other residents in the community also were concerned about the apparent jump in urban renewal taxes, contacted the Jackson County Assessor's Office to find out what was going on.

County Assessor Dan Ross said that property tax statements in Central Point, White City, Gold Hill, Sams Valley, Shady Cove and Eagle Point showed too high an amount for urban renewal and too low for schools.

The statements affect property owners in the Eagle Point or Central Point school districts.

Despite incorrect information on the tax bills, Ross said the total owed is still accurate.

The total tax amount is exactly right, he said.

The snafu occurred when the county changed the way it itemizes property tax statements to better explain how much was being spent on urban renewal. This came about after Shilo Inn in Portland won a lawsuit in 2001 that forced more disclosure about the funding of urban renewal.

After Anderson called the assessor's office, Ross said the tax bills were analyzed. Lo and behold there it was, he said.

The problem has been resolved internally, and Ross said that since the total amount on the bills is correct, no notification will be sent to property owners.

The assessor's office hasn't calculated how many property owners received incorrect statements.

While Anderson believes the assessor's office has fixed the problem, he still questions why his property tax statement increased again this year after a sizable jump last year because of bond measures.

He concluded that most of the increase is because of urban renewal taxes, which are used for projects such as new sidewalks in White City.

Anderson questions why these taxes are going up when Oregon is in a recession.

It shouldn't go up ' it's already too damn high, he said. My concern is that during this time of high unemployment and a depressed economy, we are pouring sidewalks in White City.

Anderson said schools have been suffering, and it might be better to shift some of the urban renewal money into education during these difficult economic times.

When we've got schools being depressed, we should make delays in spending, he said.

Anderson said he's not sure if anything can be done to change the funding of urban renewal, but he thinks that these sorts of questions should be raised.

Kelly Madding, director of Jackson County Economic and Special Development, said that if urban renewal disappeared tomorrow, it still wouldn't help schools.

That's because the state distributes funding for all school districts throughout the state, she said.

If urban renewal did not exist, School District 9 would not net any more money than they do now because of equalization of funding, she said.

While much of the &

36;8.5 million raised through taxes for urban renewal will go for new sidewalks, storm drains and streets in White City, Madding said some of it will also benefit schools.

A new middle school in White City will get sidewalks and other improvements from urban renewal money, she said.

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