Property tax bills to be mailed this week; at least small increases in store for most in Portland metro

Portland-area residents who receive their property tax statements in the coming days are likely to see at least a slight increase in their bills.

Collections are set to increase across the metro area, fueled by increases in assessed values, new voter-approved levies and bonds, and new construction freshly added to the tax rolls.

Washington County expects to collect $1.309 billion from taxes this year, compared to about $1.258 billion last year, or an increase of 4%. Multnomah County anticipates collecting $2.218 billion for the 2021 tax year, an 8% increase from the $2.047 billion collected in 2020. Clackamas County has billed a total of $998.6 million to residents, compared to $962.2 million the previous year. That’s an increase of about 3.7%.

Typically, property taxes in Oregon increase for only a few reasons. The most consistent is the annual 3% increase in homes’ and properties’ assessed values, per a state law approved by voters in the 1990s.

Residents may also see their tax bills go up if they make major improvements that add value to a home.

Taxes can also increase because of voter-approved bonds or levies. When a bond expires, residents may see a decrease.

Multnomah County Assessor Mike Vaughn said notable tax bill increases in the county came from measures including a library bond and the city of Portland’s local option levy to fund city parks, approved by voters in November 2020. Voters also renewed an expiring Portland Public Schools bond.

Clackamas County voters approved several measures that will increase taxes, including new school bonds in Canby and West Linn-Wilsonville school districts.

In Washington County, taxpayers will see increases from countywide local option levies for public safety services and library services.

In rare cases, property taxes can rise faster than expected because of a tax relief measure voters approved in 1990. Measure 5 limited property taxes for schools to $5 per $1,000 of a home’s market value, and to $10 per $1,000 of market value for other taxing districts.

That only comes into effect when a home’s value has fallen dramatically, as in the late 2000s housing crash. But if that reverses, there’s no limit on how quickly the tax relief can evaporate, leading to larger year-over-year increases.

While the pandemic brought financial upheaval for some Oregonians — even as it coincided with a dramatic run-up in property values — Vaughn said that’s unlikely to result in major changes in this year’s tax bills.

“I think if you’re the owner of a hotel, you would see a decrease in your tax bill because the values were reflected in the pandemic,” he said. “But individual homeowners would likely have seen their values go up.”

Vaughn said one of the most common misconceptions he sees from taxpayers is that property taxes can’t increase by more than 3% — the annual increase in homes’ assessed value dictated by the 1997-passed Measure 50.

But he said it’s important for taxpayers to realize that there’s no limitation on tax increases.

“If you get voter approval to spend more money, then that money can come in,” he said.

Taxpayers in the Portland metro area should receive their property tax bills this week. Those who complete their full payment by Nov. 15 will receive a 3% discount. Those who pay two-thirds of their bill by that date will receive a 2% discount. Taxpayers can also pay in three installments — due Nov. 15, Feb. 15 and May 16.

—Jayati Ramakrishnan; 503-221-4320; [email protected]