Lawmakers in Salem are considering many changes in Oregon's property tax system, hoping to address issues of fairness, compression and, in some cases, they're trying to bust the limits created by ballot measures over the past 23 years.
Prior to the session, the League of Oregon Cities, which wants to see a variety of changes, commissioned polling (PDF) on property taxes, which is now circulating in the Capitol.
The poll finds Oregonians are open to changing the property tax system, even if they aren't always sure how it works.
There's another interesting finding, highlighted below: Oregonian's views about property taxes are pretty consistent regardless of the respondents' political views or geography.Here are some highlights:
"Before receiving information about property taxes in Oregon voters are mildly supportive of the existing system, but a majority are also open to making some changes to it.
• A slim majority (52%) of voters agreed that overall the property tax system is working well. • However, feelings about the existing system were not strong, with 65% of voters saying that they only “somewhat” agree or disagree that Oregon’s property tax system is working well compared to 30% who “strongly” agreed or disagreed.
• In the initial test, before hearing details about it, 45% of voters said that that Oregon’s property tax system needs “minor tweaks” and 17% felt that the system is so flawed that we need to “start over from scratch.” Together, 62% of voters start from a place of being receptive to reforms. It is important to voters that property taxes go towards paying for services that they value, including schools and public safety.
• 80% of voters believe that they understand what property taxes pay for.
• 79% of voters agreed that property taxes pay for services that are important to them.
• In the previous focus group research, voters were less able to accurately describe what property taxes pay for (and how the system works overall) than is suggested in their answers here. Nonetheless, voters in those groups placed a high value on funding basic local government services and see that as the primary value of property taxes. A lack of local voter control and inequities in the existing system are the most powerful arguments against the existing property tax system and reasons to support reforms.
• The survey explained how the current property tax system works and asked about the lack of local asked about the lack of local voter control and inequities multiple ways, and voters consistently answered that that these are negative features of the existing system.
• 66% of voters felt negatively about the current system prohibiting local voters from increasing permanent rates.
• 83% of voters felt negatively that two homes, in the same community with the same market value, can have drastically different property tax bills. Voters are receptive to information about the current property tax system, and once informed about it become more supportive of change.
• After receiving information about Oregon’s property taxes, 81% of voters said that the system needs “minor tweaks” or needs to “start over from starch,” a 19 percentage-point increase from the initial test.
• “Don’t know” responses in the survey were relatively infrequent, indicating that voters will understand basic messages about the property tax system. There is majority support for three of four of the League of Oregon Cities reform proposals tested.
• 84% supported ensuring all property owners pay their share of the temporary taxes approved by local voters for services.
• 64% supported resetting a property’s taxable value to its sales price when it is sold.
• 64% supported allowing temporary taxes for local services to exceed statewide limitations, when approved by voters.
• However, 54% opposed allowing local voters to extend the maximum timeframe of voter-approved temporary levies from 5 years to 10 years.
There is also majority support for three other property tax reforms proposals.
• 79% support amending the Oregon constitution to guarantee that all properties with similar market values are taxed at similar rates.
• 69% support allowing local governments and schools to increase their maximum allowable tax rates if approved by a majority of voters.
• 67% support allowing local voters to increase the amount an individual property can be taxed above the $5 per $1,000 limit for schools, with the money staying in the local school district.
• However, 60% oppose allowing elected school boards to increase those same limits. Opinions about Oregon’s property tax system are similar across all demographic groups, including by political party and area of state.
• Care is taken throughout this report to note demographic differences for each item. Although there are statistically significant difference on most items, the gaps among groups are generally small.
• With tax and spending issues, there are quite often large and consistent differences in attitudes by political party and area of the state. However, with regards to property taxes in Oregon, opinions varied little by ideology or geography."