At a recent public hearing regarding a conditional use permit for a proposed new business locating in Columbia County, two themes kept coming up that have caused the Port district concern. The first one was “How is this business helping the community?” and the second one was “The windmills have done nothing for us.”
The first statement was in regards to a potential blockchain business locating here. Many in the audience seemed to think that if the business didn’t provide something they could eat or buy, or didn’t create a lot of new jobs, it wasn’t providing any community benefit. Putting aside whether or not you approve of a blockchain, new businesses locating here do provide value to the community. How? By increasing the tax base, which is the total value of the land and assets of a county. As the tax base grows, the share each individual has to pay goes down. Or, if a community decides to tax themselves for additional services (like ours has), such as a hospital bond or an EMS levy, collecting the new revenue doesn’t cause our taxes to go up a huge amount. A larger tax base creates “room” in the tax pie for additional services.
This leads to the second concerning statement that the wind turbines have done nothing for our county. Nothing could be further from the truth! Besides creating 72 year-round, living-wage jobs with benefits and new revenue for landowners, the value of the wind farms has nearly quadrupled our tax base! This has dramatically reduced our tax rates (see Tax Rate chart.)
Here’s an example: The tax rate is the individual rate each of us pays per $1,000 in value of property we own. Let’s say your house value is $100,000. If you lived in the Delaney tax area in 2014, your total tax bill for the year would have been $1,114. If you lived in Waitsburg in a $100,000 home in 2014, your total tax bill would have been $1,371. That is a 23% difference! Ten years ago, before the wind industry came to Columbia County, your taxes on a house of the same value would have been $1,338 in the Delany tax area.
People will say “but my taxes have still gone up.” Yes, they have! Why? Several reasons. First, the value of real estate has gone up over the last 14 years, as it should. (We don’t want our houses to lose value, do we?) Also, we’ve passed several special levies as shown in the chart. We’ve been able to collect more revenue without huge tax increases. Finally, the state portion of the tax levies change. Your tax bill in 2018 went way up because the state had to change the way they funded schools. They increased their portion of the tax levy by a large margin. We had no control over that increase at the local level.
Our hope is that this tax chart will help explain how new and existing businesses help the community in many ways. The Port wants to continue to foster a pro-business atmosphere in Columbia County, and we need our citizens to help us do so.