Property tax statements mailed; where does your money go

November 4, 2019

The Columbia County Finance and Taxation Department recently sent taxpayers their annual property tax statement. Payments are due by November 15.

Property taxes pay for a number of critical services. These include public safety (law enforcement, fire and emergency services), parks, schools, refuse disposal, recycling, public transportation, public defense, elections, community justice and a host of other important municipal services.

Columbia County will collect $78,991,571 in taxes from both businesses and private landowners this year.  But the majority of that amount doesn’t stay in county coffers – only 9.37 percent, or roughly $7.4 million goes into the county’s general fund. An additional 4.00 percent, or $3.1 million, goes to the Jail Operation Fund from the local option levy approved by county voters.

General fund dollars largely pay for county law enforcement and public safety, including Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, jail operations and the district attorney’s office. The remainder pays for general county administration, including the assessor’s office, land development services, juvenile services and the county commission. More than 85 percent of property tax funds collected are distributed to local schools, cities and special districts, such as those that manage 911 services or soil and water conservation, to name a few.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • schools $ 35,787,164 - 45 percent
  • fire districts $ 13,704,221 - 17 percent
  • Columbia County government $ 10,562,885 - 13 percent
  • city governments $ 7,750,131 - 10 percent
  • special districts $ 5,987,451 – 8 percent
  • urban renewal $ 3,803,976 - 5 percent
  • drainage/special assessments $ 1,395,743 - 2 percent
    • TOTAL - $78,991,571

Columbia County has 99 tax code areas that are comprised of various combinations of taxing districts that serve that area. Therefore, where your property is located dictates the rate and type of taxes you pay. City dwellers can often pay more than rural property owners because of local taxes that go to parks, libraries or local voter-approved bonds, among other benefits.

On the top left of your property tax statement is your code number. To see the exact charges for your specific code, go to the county Assessor’s webpage at and open the 2019-20 Summary of Assessment & Tax Roll. The document contains a list of all agencies in the county that receive the taxes.

The vast majority of taxes – more than 45 percent – goes towards education, including five school districts, one educational service district and Portland Community College.

Fire districts receive more than 17 percent of the total. These districts cover the entire county, from Vernonia to Clatskanie to Scappoose.

The county tax assessor, an elected official, regulates property taxes and bases them on the most recent property value assessment for homes, businesses and land. The assessor determines how often assessments are performed, and what percentage of property value is taxed.

For more information about your Columbia County tax statement, or if you believe your property tax assessment was unfair, contact the county Assessor’s office at 503-397-2240.

More: Home Page News Finance & Tax News