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Talent rebuilding plan comes under scrutiny

Jackson County administrator calls for deeper look at proposal

Jackson County Administrator Danny Jordan said this week that more information is needed on the impacts of a proposed new Talent Urban Renewal District in order to properly measure the effects on other taxing districts.

Jordan — along with officials from Jackson County Fire District No. 5, which would forgo $15.7 million in revenue over the 30-year life of the proposed district — has voiced concerns about the loss of funding and related issues surrounding the district formation in an area burned by the Almeda fire.

“They need to take a deep look. They need to provide some information on assumptions they made on rebuilding. This is a unique situation,” Jordan said, saying that urban renewal districts usually don’t deal with rebuilding from a major disaster.

Talent officials say the new district is needed to help rebuild after the September 2020 fire that burned through the region.

TURA officials presented the project impacts at a March 16 City Council meeting. An urban renewal district would freeze the tax base at Jan. 1, 2021, levels. Taxes from increases in value after that date would go to urban renewal and not to other taxing districts in the area.

The agency’s figures showed lower amounts of revenues going for renewal projects in early years but larger amounts in later years.

Jordan said there are several options to creating an urban renewal district that would present fewer financial impacts on taxing districts which, along with Fire District 5, include Jackson County, Jackson County Library District, Rogue Valley Transportation District, Rogue Community College, Phoenix-Talent School District, Jackson County Educational Services District, Jackson Soil and Water Conservation District, Vector Control and the 4-H Extension Service District.

Jordan said he would like to know the rate of growth that agency officials projected for rebuilding from the fire in the proposed district. During the March meeting, a consultant said overall value growth in a renewal district is usually assumed to be between 5% and 6%.

TURA assumed a 7% rate of value growth from rebuilding in the area, agency Executive Director Jon Legarza said in an interview earlier this week.

Among options are delaying formation of the district, the city of Talent using tax revenues that will be created as values increase from rebuilding to issue bonds for improvement projects, or waiting to see what the impact of a $422 million federal Housing and Urban Development appropriation for Oregon counties hit by fire will have for the city.

“In the short run, a new urban renewal district would hurt several other taxing districts, including Fire District 5 significantly,” said Jordan.

TURA has proposed formation of the district by this August.

Jordan points out that little rebuilding had occurred by Jan. 1, 2021, and structures lost were removed from tax base value. Subsequent rebuilds would be added back to the tax roles with all taxes going to a new urban district.

“One of the purposes (of urban renewal) is to stop devaluation. (The value is) at the bottom. It has no place go but up,” said Jordan. He suggests the effort might be paused to allow the other taxing districts to capture some of the value that rebuilding will bring inside the district.

A new district would also benefit from new manufactured homes that may be brought to parks that burned during the fire, said Jordan. Talent lost 333 manufactured homes in the fire. Of those, 199 in Mountain View Estates would be outside the proposed district as shown in a March 16 map.

In Oregon, manufactured homes not on foundations are taxed as personal property. They can be depreciated over the years.

Jordan said many of the older manufactured homes that burned had likely been depreciated and had low values. New homes costing more would be taxed at a higher value initially, but would have little value at the end of 30 years due to depreciation, thus decreasing revenue to the other districts.

“They could wait for construction to go on the tax rolls so the districts aren’t hit as hard and still get the (revenues),” said Jordan.

Talent City Council has discussed the HUD action funding plan. The $422 million award from Congress will be administer by the Oregon Housing and Community Services Department as a Community Development Block Grant. Low- to moderate-income households must receive 70% of the money to help them with housing. Beyond that other funds may be spent for infrastructure, economic development and resiliency.

Legarza said both urban renewal revenue and funds from the federal grant will be needed to rebuild Talent. OHCS determined there was more than $1 billion in housing impacts in Oregon from the 2020 fires, but the federal government award is $422 million for seven counties, Legarza noted.

TURA will host an online open house on the proposed district April 27 at 6:30 p.m. Sometime during May the city will present its own analysis and review of the district formation to the City Council.

Talent Urban Renewal Agency’s board of directors is composed of the town’s mayor and six city council members. The agency can approve formation of a district without approval from other taxing districts, although they must consult with them.

“I believe they can do it,” Jordan said. “Should they do it is the question.”

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.