News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

State bill could reset tax rates for fire survivors

Santiam Canyon residents are throwing support behind a state bill that could prevent property taxes from increasing for wildfire survivors who were forced to rebuild their homes.

Senate Bill 1012 would stabilize the assessed values of qualifying properties rebuilt since the September 2020 wildfires.

Assessed values in Oregon do not increase more than 3 percent annually for existing homes, however new construction is not bound by this limit even if homes are rebuilt after a disaster. SB 1012 would allow homeowners to apply for an exemption that would record their home’s value at the rate assessed during the 2020-2021 tax year.

County governments would make the ultimate decision to grant exemptions. A rebuilt home with greater square footage than the destroyed residence would not qualify for an exemption.

The bill was passed unanimously by the Senate April 12 and is now in committee in the House.

A hearing for SB 1012 was held May 4 before the House Committee on Revenue, and written testimony included statements from residents in Lyons, Detroit, Elkhorn and Stayton. Among them was Melissa Baurer, director of integrated health and outreach for Santiam Hospital & Clinics, who spoke of the fire survivors her department has helped since 2020.

She said the hospital has helped 244 households rebuild or relocate after the fires, and is still helping 90 households recover and rebuild. She said supporting the bill would be supporting fire survivors who “will be recovering financially for years to come.”

Detroit resident Roger Lemons described the frustration many fire survivors have felt after rebuilding, with rising construction costs obligating many to rebuild a smaller house.

“We pay more now per month and have half the home we used to own,” Lemons told the committee. “Please don’t penalize me for my home burning down.”

Marion County also came out in support of the bill, sending a news release encouraging residents to submit comments. The county said the bill could reset tax rates to pre-fire levels.

As of press time, no committee hearings for SB 1012 were scheduled.

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