When ballots for the May 21 election arrive in the mail, the Curry County ballot measure is a reminder that voters in Oregon have tight control on property taxes. Every penny of property taxes has been approved by voters. Every penny was approved for specific local governments (where the decision makers are also elected by voters) and often the tax is limited to very specific purposes.
That means the library levy cannot be diverted to police patrols. County taxes can’t be used for repair of private roads. The cemetery levy cannot be raised without an additional approval from voters.
In Oregon, property taxes are used to raise funds for services that are property specific. We use property taxes to pay for the services available to that property, and are a part of that property’s value.
It is both a power given to voters and a protection given to taxpayers as our society decides how much to spend on public services, and who should pay how much.
In the case of property taxes, the amounts are divided up by the value of the property. Oregon voters have approved some strange and inequitable limits on those values, but again it was majority-rule in those decisions. Some of those decisions were made by voters; others were made by the neighbors we elected to represent us.
Property taxes are a tool, but the use of that tool is limited to voters.