Sunday May 16, 2021

Fire victims rebuilding face double taxation from school district

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School District Excise Tax WIldfire

A tax passed by the Oregon Legislature in 2007 is the subject of controversy as fire victims rebuilding say they are being taxed twice.

SB 1036 allows school districts to charge a Construction Excise Tax against new construction so they can provide capital improvements, such as improving a kitchen at Oceanlake Elementary and Taft Elementary’s roof and building additions.

Douglas Bernhardt, a contractor helping his Otis friend rebuild after he lost his home to the Echo Mountain Complex Wildfire, said he applied to Lincoln County for a permit and was told to pay the Construction Excise Tax of nearly $2,000. Bernhardt tried to explain the tax had already been paid by the homeowner and a rebuild was not new construction. Bernhardt said he was referred to multiple State agencies before being told he needed to take it up with the Lincoln County School Board.

Bernhardt went to the latest school board meeting, Oct. 13, and spoke for two minutes asking for an exemption for wildfire victims. Additionally, Bernhardt was instrumental in getting a signed letter from wildfire victims to the Lincoln County School District Board asking for an exemption.

In the meeting agenda, Lincoln County School District staff ask for an increase to the Construction Excise Tax for an additional 10 cents to take effect Jan. 1, 2021. State law allows increases every year for inflation, but it is the school district’s choice to impose them.

In a video of the school board meeting, board members can be heard amid bad audio saying they want to be compassionate toward fire victims but can’t go against the law. One member can be heard saying, “It’s out of our hands.”

Homepage has reached out to Lincoln County School District Board of Directors members for comment and is awaiting a response.

Representative David Gomberg promised immediate action upon hearing about this situation and said he was also working on protecting wildfire victims from higher property taxes that would occur upon rebuilding.

Lincoln County Commissioner Claire Hall said the board would be discussing this at their next meeting on Monday.

Lincoln County School District’s adopted budget of $128 million shows the Construction Excise Tax is forecast to bring in $480,000 for 2020-21 and raised $656,150.16 in 2018-19 (Page 369).

Bernhardt said in talking with Lincoln County staff, he was advised he would receive a refund if tax paid was waived for victims of wildfires. He would do this so the homeowner “could move on and be done with it.”

The nearly 300 homes lost to wildfire could bring in an estimated $300,000 (Avg. $1,000) in Construction Excise Tax revenue for Lincoln County School District.

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Justin Wernerhttps://wernerhost.com/
I'm publisher of Lincoln City Homepage and an investigative journalist. Also the web guy, photographer, cameraman, video editor, sportswriter, cat trainer and e-bike enthusiast.

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7 COMMENTS

  1. “Its out of our hands…??”
    Ha! It is their back-door opportunity to get their (double tax) increase!

    This isn’t any home upgrade or improvement. This is replacing one’s home!
    And Otis residents have already paid the initial tax. Asking them to pay again, just so they can get permits to RE-BUILD, IS double taxation and its under-handed and outright
    despicable!
    Lincoln county schools should be ashamed of themselves!

  2. Rebuild quickly? What does that mean? If nobody has noticed, with the Otis
    Cafe, or the Crab Shack, rebuilding after a fire seems to take a long time.
    All of these regulations should be rescinded for fire victims, just like they
    rescinded the parameters for disposal of the fire debris.
    Another point- What exactly would the school district have done about
    their “need” for more money WITHOUT the fires? What a windfall.

  3. Like system development charges for water and sewer, there should be a CET credit on the property. Assuming that the home owner rebuilt quickly that CET credit shouldn’t expire.

  4. These homes were lost due to the fault of some other entity ie power lines,
    and even needing a building permit is not fair. They’ll “work on it” Sure.
    What does the school system need any money for to begin with? I thought they’re all shut down, and virtual learning is now the staple.
    The county is as greedy as the city(s). I got bad news for everyone with this
    anti-social virtual schooling- your kids will have no social skills, and we are about
    to raise a generation of Michael Myers.
    Isn’t it great your burnt home and life is worth One thousand dollars to the
    school district?

    • I AGREE 100% WITH YOU KEVIN WE HAVE BEEN ROBED BUY THERE HIGH TAXES EVERY YEAR. WHY do they need to robe fire rebuilds of more tax dollars plus everyone else. I believe in education not robbery they want more money every year I believe to pad some pockets especially now with schools shut down should be funded just for teacher pay only I know no some L/C residents that struggle every year just to have the money to pay taxes. CITY taxes are way out of control too plus county building square footage rate is crazy high amount.( were not Portland thank god.)

      • What happened to all the money the schools are to be getting from all the sales taxes imposed on business such as tobacco sales plus lottery dollars many more? Some ones smiling with padded pockets. What happened to the money from our hidden sales tax our not so good gov. Kate snuck in on us OH were not suppost to now about that. Taxes are way out of control some one is happy!!!!!!

  5. It seems that the school board is hiding behind the law. It’s their County, their School District and their neighbors getting screwed. We may want to remember this the next time they are up for re-election. They should be ashamed of themselves.

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