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Your Taxes: The budget process

Oregon law provides for ample public participation.

By Sean Hart

Blue Mountain Eagle

Published on March 14, 2017 6:40PM

Members of the governing body of local tax districts have the most impact on how taxes are spent.

The people chosen for these positions in the May election will serve on and appoint other members to future budget committees that develop the plans to provide public services with available resources.

Most districts perform the budget process annually, though biennial 24-month budgets are also allowed.

In addition to the opportunity to serve on governing bodies and budget committees, Oregon law provides ample opportunities for public participation and comment during the budget process. Budget documents are public records, available for inspection, and meetings are open to the public.

Budget officer

Local governments are required to have a budget officer who, under supervision of the governing body, prepares and presents a proposed budget to the budget committee, according to an Oregon Department of Revenue local budgeting manual. The budget officer cannot serve as a member of the budget committee.

The proposed budget must be balanced — where resources match expenditures and other requirements for each fund — and estimates must be made in good faith.

The executive officer of the district is responsible for the preparation of a budget message and may delegate the task to the budget officer. The message must explain the budget, describe financial policies and explain any changes. The budget message is presented to the budget committee at its first meeting.

Budget committee

Budget committees are comprised of the governing body of a district and an equal number of electors — who cannot be officers, agents or employees of the government entity for which they would serve — appointed by the governing body.

Districts must publish notice of the first meeting in a newspaper — such as in the Eagle’s legal notices in the classifieds — or by hand or mail delivery to district residents. Some local districts have already published notices this year, and others must do so to complete the budget process by the end of the fiscal year, June 30.

Budget committees meet as many times as necessary to revise and complete the budget, and at least one meeting must provide the opportunity for questions and comments from anyone who is interested. Once complete, the committee approves the budget.

Budget hearing

The governing body must then hold a budget hearing, at which anyone may provide testimony about the approved budget.

Beforehand, the body must publish a notice of the hearing with a financial summary in a newspaper or by hand or mail delivery.

Additional hearings may also be held, but all must be open to the public.

Budget adoption

After the hearing, the governing body may make changes to the approved budget before adopting it — or to the adopted budget before the fiscal year begins. The governing body must hold another budget hearing, however, if the changes increase taxes over the amount approved by the budget committee or increase the estimated expenditures in a fund by more than $5,000 or 10 percent, whichever is greater.

After considering public feedback, the governing body formally adopts the budget, makes appropriations and levies property taxes.

Over the course of the fiscal year, when actual revenues and expenditures differ from amounts estimated in the budget, the governing body must adopt a supplemental budget to balance the differences.

Editor’s note: This is the fourth entry in the Eagle’s 2017 “Your Taxes” series, in which we will examine all 27 taxing districts in Grant County so you know where your property taxes are going.


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