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What are the big ideas on property tax?

Heads up, homeowners. For Oregon reformers, you are next.

A legislative committee is meeting this week to look at property taxes.

Will you end up paying less? Or more?

We don’t know exactly what ideas the committee will consider. But it’s not hard to guess, because legislators bring some ideas up repeatedly.

The big one is: Reset on sale.

Property values in Oregon do not reset on sale. They are artificially limited thanks to Measures 5 and 50. Basically older homes had an artificial value created to determine their taxes — the assessed value. Their maximum assessed value was set at their real market value in 1995 minus 10%. And they can only go up by 3% a year. That has benefited people in older homes in areas that have been gentrifying.

The system we got from the ballot measures has also created other oddities such as two similarly sized homes in a neighborhood having very different tax rates.

What’s the real problem with this system that helps keep property taxes low? Doesn’t it ensure government has to spend money carefully? Yes, but ...

The “but” is that the controls on property tax revenue can mean governments can be more reliant on fees. And fees can be relatively more difficult for low-income people to pay while people who are richer benefit from owning homes.

Of course, any changes that are made to the property tax system could be hard on some family incomes. That’s why reformers talk about including some safety valves. There could be exemptions to protect a certain value of a homestead from taxes, relief for seniors and also flat-out refunds for taxes that are believed to be too high. But how and where would those be set?

One other idea the committee is set to discuss is the prepayment discount — such as getting a 3% discount for paying your property taxes in full by mid-November. We don’t know if the committee will talk about getting rid of the discounts. It might.

If you are interested in what your government might do to your property taxes, a House Interim Committee on Revenue meeting that was held earlier this week is available online so you can see what was discussed.