2008-09 Columbia County Property Tax Statements to be Mailed This Week
October 13, 2008
Sue Poling, Columbia County Assessor
Columbia County Assessor, Sue Poling, has certified the 2008-09 Columbia County Assessment
and Tax Rolls, and over 28,000 property tax bills will be mailed this week to Columbia County
Most tax bills for typical rural residential properties in the Scappoose area decreased 1.19
percent, while the typical residential properties in the City of Rainier increased 4.90 percent.
Under the property tax system implemented by Measure 50, passed by Oregon voters in 1997,
taxing districts have permanent tax rates for operating purposes. At the same time maximum
assessed values of individual properties are limited to a three percent increase each year unless
the property is improved, subdivided, re-zoned or disqualified from special assessment or
exemption. These are considered “exceptions” to the three percent increase in maximum
assessed value. The tax assessed value of an individual property is the lower of the maximum
assessed value or the real market value of the property.
Although most property owners can expect a predictable three percent increase in their property
tax bill each year, there is another source of change. Whether a property owner’s tax bill varies
more than three percent is largely the result of changes in local option and bonded debt levy
rates, which are not limited by Measure 50. This is why the percentage change is not the same
throughout the county.
One of the Scappoose School bonded debt levies approved by voters in March 1999 and the
Vernonia RFPD bonded debt levy approved by voters in March 1998 were both paid off last year
decreasing the consolidated tax rates in those areas this year. The Rainier Economic
Development Council (REDCO) did not levy an amount on their Urban Renewal Special Levy
this year, however, this is the first year that the City of Rainier will begin levying on the bonded
debt measure passed by voters in November 2006 to construct a new wastewater treatment plant.
A total of $50,071,055.45 in property taxes are being billed for the county, cities, schools and
special districts. That amount is 1.11 percent less than was billed last year. In addition, a total of
$1,112,599.67 will be collected for such things as drainage districts assessments and the Oregon
Department of Forestry’s fire patrol special assessments. That amount is 27 percent higher than
last year due to an increase in fire patrol assessments. According to the Department of Forestry,
these rates reflect rising firefighting costs, a restructured wildfire funding system approved by
the 2007 Legislature - including a surcharge on improved lots, and payback of a one-time loan to
cover deficits incurred in fighting 14 large fires over the past three years. Forest landowners and
owners of one or more improved lots in forest protection districts will see these rates reflected on
property tax statements this year. For more information on the increase in fire patrol
assessments, you can visit www.oregon.gov/odf or call the Department of Forestry at 503-397-
County wide, the market value of all taxable property increased from $6.90 billion to $7.25
billion, an increase of 5 percent. The largest residential increase in market value, based on sales
prior to January 1, 2008 was Prescott, where vacant land values increased by 25%. Most of the
remaining residential market values in the county increased by an average of 6%. However,
property taxes are based on assessed values. The total assessed value this year is $38,658,310.45
or 0.83 percent lower than last year. While most residential and commercial properties in the
county will see a three percent increase in their assessed value, the reason for the overall
decrease is partly due to adjusting maximum assessed value for properties damaged in the flood
The first payment of the tax bill is due by November 17, 2008. Payments that are mailed need to
be postmarked by the 17th. At least one third of the amount is due at that time. The second and
third installments are due by February 16, 2009 and May 15, 2009, however the County does not
send out statements for the February or May due dates.
Property owners who pay the entire amount due by November 17th will receive a three percent
discount. If two thirds of the bill is paid by November 17th a two percent discount of the amount
paid will be allowed.
Columbia County is once again providing a way to pay property taxes with credit and debit
cards, through the Point & Pay website. Property Tax payments can be made with your credit
and debit cards on-line at www.co.columbia.or.us, or by calling 1-866-587-4007. There is a
2.95% charge to use your credit or debit card.
Also, as in past years, arrangements have been made with local financial institutions to collect
only the 2008-09 property taxes through November 17, 2008 at the following authorized
collectors: Bank of the West in St. Helens; Wauna Federal Credit Union, Clatskanie, St. Helens,
and Vernonia; St. Helens Community Federal Credit Union, all branches in Columbia County.
Property owners may appeal the value of their property as in past years. However, there would
only be a reduction in the taxes due if the market value falls below the assessed value. The
deadline for filing an appeal is December 31, 2008 Appeal forms are available from the county
clerk or county assessors office.
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