Wallowa County chieftain. (Enterprise, Wallowa County, Or.) 1943-current, March 08, 2017, Page A16, Image 16

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    A16
News
wallowa.com
March 8, 2017
Wallowa County Chieftain
Lawmakers drop farm property tax bill
By Mateusz Perkowski
Capital Bureau
SALEM — Intense opposition
by Oregon’s farmers, ranchers and
forestland owners has apparently
convinced lawmakers to back away
from altering key property tax pro-
visions affecting agriculture and for-
estry.
Machinery used for agriculture
and forestry is exempt from property
tax assessments while property ded-
icated to producing crops, livestock
and timber is less heavily taxed than
other real estate.
Under the original language of
House Bill 2859, the property tax
exemption for equipment and the
farm use assessment for land would
expire in 2024 unless renewed by
lawmakers.
The proposal evoked alarm in Or-
egon’s natural resource community,
which turned out in full force at a
March 1 hearing to argue that cre-
ating a “sunset” for these provisions
would fi nancially destabilize farm-
ing, ranching and forestry.
By the end of the hearing, the
overwhelmingly negative testimo-
ny against HB 2859 seemed to have
the desired effect on members of the
House Revenue Committee.
“I’m pretty convinced putting a
sunset on these things that are very
long-term assets doesn’t make any
sense,” said Rep. Phil Barnhart,
D-Eugene, the committee’s chair.
At the beginning of the hearing,
Barnhart said the bill was drafted in
response to an audit from Oregon’s
Secretary of State’s Offi ce, which
called for periodic review of exist-
ing property tax exemptions and tax
credits.
In light of the objections to HB
2859, though, Barnhart said he
thought the sunset provisions related
to natural resources should be elimi-
nated from the bill.
The suggestion drew no objec-
tions from other committee mem-
bers, so Barnhart said they would
only consider the remaining provi-
sions of HB 2859 related to econom-
ic development and other issues.
“I think you should consider all
of what I just said means that you
win,” Barnhart told the audience, to
enthusiastic applause.
Farmers, ranchers and forestland
owners at the hearing emphasized
that natural resource industries were
already highly uncertain due to the
weather and volatile markets.
Landowners said they shouldn’t
also have to contend with the pos-
sibility their property taxes may rise
dramatically every six years, which
is the period of sunset review estab-
lished under HB 2859.
“In the orchard business, we need
to plan long term,” said Bruce Chap-
in, a hazelnut producer near Keizer,
many of these problems are
resolved by the 11th grade,
the survey shows higher than
average rates of fi stfi ghts on
school property as well as
occasions of students being
threatened with a weapon on
school grounds.
However, Building Healthy
Families Youth Prevention
Coordinator Jason Wilcox
cautioned that the survey re-
sults are possibly misleading
because it is the fi rst time the
county’s schools have tak-
en the survey in a number of
years. Jason Wilcox said the
2016 survey would establish
a baseline and subsequent sur-
veys would determine if the
2016 results are an anomaly.
BULLIES
Continued from Page A1
A mostly subdued audience
left the building after the fi lm.
Jadon Garland called the event
a success in getting out the
word about bullying.
“We had a good crowd; it
was exactly what we wanted.
It was very inspiring; I hope it
made an impact.”
“We had some teaching
staff here and students from
all three schools, and that was
great. I’m very pleased,” said
Tamarah Duncan, Family, Ca-
reer and Community Leaders
of America adviser.
Julie Garland appreciated
both the teen and adult turnout.
She also mentioned possible
follow-up with the “Natural
Helpers” group at the county’s
schools, composed of teens
selected by their peers as safe
to air out their problems. “The
goal of that program is that by
strengthening that program,
you’re strengthening the over-
all school environment.”
“We don’t have a
problem?”
It’s unpleasant to think that
Ore.
Marsha Carr, a forestland owner
near Monroe, Ore., said her annual
property taxes would rise from about
$1,000 to more than $25,000 under
HB 2859.
Carr said her family harvests tim-
ber in small patches of fi ve to seven
acres, which preserves habitat for
wildlife and songbirds.
“That would have to change to
pay the taxes,” she said. “We would
have to cut larger areas.”
Farmers rely on specialized
equipment but they often oper-
ate it for only a month or less per
year, unlike other industries where
machinery creates revenues year-
round, said Roger Beyer, a lobbyist
for the Western Equipment Dealers
Association and several crop orga-
nizations.
If property taxes were imposed
on farm machinery, it would destroy
demand for machinery, he said. “It
Steve Tool/Chieftain
Enterprise High School freshman Jadon Garland addresses
a crowd of more than 200 who attended the showing of the
film “Bully” at the OK Theatre on Feb. 23. The film graphically
addressed how the effects of bullying on children, parents and
communities. Garland brought the film to the theatre as part of
his Family, Career and Community Leaders of America project.
Wallowa County Schools har-
bor bullies. But the 2016 Ore-
gon Student Wellness Survey
indicates that is the case.
That survey indicated that
eighth grade bullying here is
above statewide norms. In
particular, taunts berating
children for their physical
characteristics or clothing far
exceeded state levels. Taunts
over alleged sexual preferenc-
es are high on the list as well.
Although the statistics show
Bringing it all back
home
“Tom,” a student at the
Building Healthy Families’
Alternative Education School
is a local victim of bullying as
well as suffering from severe
depression. He fi rst saw the
movie about two years ago, and
it made an impression on him.
So he can speak candidly
about a personal matter in a
small community, Tom’s iden-
tity is being obscured by the
Chieftain.
“I know it’s cliche, but I
would simply dry up and go away.”
Landowners also testifi ed that
property would unfairly be taxed at
the maximum assessed value if the
farm use assessment was allowed to
expire.
Oregon’s land use system would
still prevent landowners in farm
zones from building homes or other
high-value structures on their prop-
erty, even if it was taxed as if such
construction was possible, oppo-
nents said.
Mark Simmons, a rancher from
Elgin, Ore., said the farm use as-
sessment is part of a “grand bargain”
between land use restrictions and
property taxes.
While it’s currently tough to raise
cattle on Simmons’ property, it could
be a “gold mine” for development,
he said.
“It’s mostly rocks and cheat-
grass,” he said. “Some of those rocky
hills with cheat grass have a view.”
thought, ‘Wow, I’m not the
only one. I’m not the only per-
son this is happening to. But I
also felt pretty bad about my-
self.”
Tom transferred from one of
the county’s schools to another
after the sixth grade because of
unaddressed bullying issues.
“The fi rst school is when my
depression started happening.
I started getting uncomfortable
around myself and others and
feeling very suicidal,” Tom
said.
After the parents of a con-
cerned friend called the school,
Tom started seeing a counselor
to ease his troubles. Although
the counselor worked out a cop-
ing plan for Tom, he stopped
attending after an outburst. He
subsequently transferred to an-
other junior high in the county.
Tom started at the new
school with optimism, thinking
he could turn over a new leaf.
He hadn’t accounted for rumors
and the proximity of the coun-
ty’s schools.
“Rumors spread like wild-
fi re: ‘Don’t talk to him; he’s a
psychopath, a murderer.’ All
I said was: I wanted them to
leave me alone forever. They
took that as a death threat,”
Tom said.
He tried melting into the
background with limited suc-
cess.
“The popular kids start-
ed targeting me. They know
I’m depressed and suffer from
social anxiety. They made it
worse just for the fun of it,
for the laughs,” he said. Com-
plaints to school staff led to
intensifi ed bullying, escalating
from general taunting to Tom
being punched, shoved into
lockers and even pushed down
a staircase.
Tom said that even com-
plaints to the school principal
led nowhere. At the end of the
school year he was transferred
to the Alt Ed school. He wor-
ried about the new school after
his previous experiences but
received reassurances from
BHF executive director and Alt
Ed instructor Maria Weer that
he would fi t in. “Maria gave
me confi dence, which I real-
ly needed,” he said. Enrolled
at the school for several years
now, Tom is in a comfortable
place. “I have a lot of friends
here. It’s really nice.”
This, his second viewing
of the fi lm brought an amount
of satisfaction. “I felt like I’d
crossed over a milestone. I’m
still here, I’m still breathing.
I’m still making people smile,”
Tom said.
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