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Oregon's tax system makes bond measure affordable

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We’ve said, over and over again, that a $374 million bond measure comes out to only 32.9 cents per $1,000 assessed value. That’s not much. That’s about $8 bucks per month, which is less than you pay for a pizza. Not a good pizza, either. I mean those really nasty, frozen pizzas.

How is that possible?

The explanation lies in the way the state of Oregon handles tax bases.

In much of the United States, it works like this: say you were mayor of a city of 1,000 people. You have a bond measure that passed a few years ago for the new City Hall. Your town gets written up in some magazine and, boom, your population grows from 1,000 to 2,000 overnight.

Good news, Your Honor. Your tax base just doubled. Instead of bringing in $250,000, as you did last year, your city will net $500,000 this coming year. Yahtzee!

But not if your town is in Oregon. Here, we do things a little differently.

Your town has 1,000 people who each pay $250 annually, netting your town $250,000. OK? Then, boom, here comes the rush and your population grows to 2,000.

But you, Mayor, don’t get one shiny, new cent. Your town is still going to net $250,000 per annum. But everybody’s slice of the pie shrinks from $250 to $125.

In other states, the pie grows. In Oregon, each person’s share of the pie shrinks.

All this talk of pie is making me hungry, so I’ll cut to the chase: We can go out for a $347 million bond measure that costs a homeowner only 32.9 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, because we’re so freaking huge. The PCC district encompasses 1,500 square miles (about the same as the state of Rhode Island) with 1.5 million residents. We cover all or portions of 13 K-12 districts. We cover parts or all of five counties that are urban, suburban and rural.

Each with a teeny slice of the property tax pie.

Send your feedback to And thanks in advance.

About Dana Haynes

Dana Haynes, joined PCC in 2007 as the manager of the Office of Public Affairs, directing the college's media and government relations. Haynes spent the previous 20 years as a reporter, columnist and editor for Oregon newspapers, including ... more »


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