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County property taxes can vary

I'm wondering if Jackson County is required to increase our property taxes 3 percent a year? With inflation less than 2 percent in 2014, running below 1 percent this year and the county flush with revenue, will our taxes continue to increase by 3 percent? If homeowners would look at a compound interest chart, they would be able to see the future five, 10 or 15 years down the road with this automatic and staggering burden.

— Mark, Ashland

Jackson County's property tax rate will remain flat at $2.01 per $1,000 in assessed value for the coming fiscal year, which starts July 1.

The Jackson County Board of Commissioners has the power to set the tax rate up to its legal ceiling, which is that $2.01 per $1,000 in assessed value.

However, many property owners may see increases because of tax reform passed by voters in the 1990s and a strengthening real estate market.

Passed in 1997, Measure 50 set tax rates based on home market values from 1995 minus 10 percent. Maximum assessed values were allowed to creep up 3 percent every year under the measure, said Jackson County Assessor Josh Gibson.

Jackson County is authorized by state law to receive those increased revenues, Gibson said.

For years in Jackson County, the market value of most homes was higher than the maximum assessed value, which continued to climb by 3 percent. Taxes are based on the lower of the two, so people paid lower taxes based on maximum assessed values rather than the higher taxes they would have seen if they had paid based on market values.

With the collapse of the housing market in 2008, market values — the amount buyers would actually pay for houses — went into a freefall.

Market values for many homes fell below maximum assessed values. Since taxes are based on the lesser of market values or maximum assessed values, many property taxpayers began paying based on market values and saw a drop in their Jackson County property taxes, according to the assessor's office.

Market values have been on the rebound for the last few years. People who saw their tax burden fall during the economic downturn may see their taxes rise by more than 3 percent as the market rate of their homes shoots up past maximum assessed values and they begin to pay on the maximum assessed value again.

Meanwhile, Jackson County continues to build up its reserves, with officials saying the county is in strong financial shape.

County Administrator Danny Jordan said the county may be able to offer tax breaks on the $2.01 per $1,000 in assessed property value in three to five years if it can earn enough interest off its reserves.

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