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Assessing the assessor’s mistakes

Jackson County Assessor David Arrasmith took a beating in a recent session with the Board of Commissioners, and deservedly so. Voters in the county should keep a watchful eye on the office going forward and ensure we have the right person in place.

Arrasmith was incorrect — twice — when he certified the 2017 tax rolls were accurate. As it turned out, there were two significant errors: The levy for Fire District 4 in the Shady Cove area should have been 99 cents — not 9.9 cents — per $1,000 assessed property value and urban renewal district taxes in Central Point affected far too wide of an area.

All tallied, more than 91,000 property tax accounts were incorrectly certified. The mistakes were corrected, but not before confusing thousands of taxpayers and causing a major headache for county staff. In a meeting with commissioners, Jackson County Administrator Danny Jordan called the incorrect certification “a glaring error” on Arrasmith’s part and “a big hardship” for the tax collector’s office.

The fire district error was more significant in terms of changing amounts owed and more than 3,200 taxpayers got notices their initial bills were wrong. But the urban renewal district error was described by the tax collector as “a mathematical nightmare,” because it affected 88,000 properties and required recalculating not only the urban renewal district’s payment, but also the payments to numerous other tax-funded agencies within the city.

The assessor’s job is generally a below-the-radar position, but has drawn its fair share of attention in recent years, with one assessor citing a hostile work environment and resigning and his successor resigning as an unsavory story about him circulated.

We all make mistakes, and Arrasmith, who was elected in 2016, deserves the opportunity to prove that he’s up to the job. But the discussion again raises the issue of whether it makes sense for the assessor to be elected.

Arrasmith can go a long way toward answering that question in the coming year and a half.