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South Corvallis Urban Renewal District and tax increment financing — what are you asked to vote for?

The voter’s pamphlet references the city’s website www.corvallisoregon.gov/urbanrenewal. The website contains this statement: ”Would schools be impacted? Schools are funded on a per-student basis from the State School Fund as determined by the Oregon Legislature. They would not be directly impacted by urban renewal. Area schools would continue to receive the same amount of base funding if an urban renewal district is created.”

Great. There’s only a little problem with this statement. Corvallis 509J schools' revenue budget for 2018-2019 is $336 million, of which local property taxes fund $218 million in new construction bonds; of the other $118 million, local property taxes fund another $68 million or 20 percent. Only $42 million of the $118 million, or 13 percent, comes from state sources!

The city’s statement may be factually correct, but the city is talking about a sliver of school funding.

What the city is asking the voters to do is to make a 30-year commitment to earmark increased property taxes in the district for projects in the district and to ask other taxing entities to forego a portion of their levies so that the taxes collected in the district stay there. The idea is that development within the district generates increases in assessed value which would go back on the tax rolls in 30 years, then all taxing districts would benefit.

A big if, over a long time. In the meantime, taxpayers outside the district may face even higher rates in order to cover any increases needed outside the district, especially with the economic challenges presented by PERS and crumbly infrastructure throughout Corvallis. Finally, who will control the property, tax revenues, and project expenditures within the district?

If you are interested in how the division (or really, diversion of taxes, works), take a look at the city of Sisters Annual Report on its urban renewal district: https://www.ci.sisters.or.us/sites/default/files/fileattachments/finance/page/2431/ura_annual_financial_report_2017.pdf

Bill Jenkins

Corvallis (Feb. 26)

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