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Event prompted by recent concerns and agitation over programs implemented by county assessor's office

Due to a growing concern perceived among local businesses and residents on property tax issues, the Central Oregon Patriots have organized a public tax forum.

The decision was spurred by the presence of multiple articles in the Central Oregonian on property tax inspection policies and concerns voiced to the group by business owners and citizens throughout the community.

“Right now, everybody’s property taxes are going out,” said Patriots Chair Craig Brookhart. “Everybody has seen this stuff going on in the paper. What better time to get this out on the table.”

The Patriots have scheduled the event for this Thursday evening at Carrie Foster Hall. Brookhart said they have budgeted two hours for the forum, but they will continue beyond that timeframe if necessary.

Brookhart said the forum will focus on general facets of property tax law, rather than individual cases, in hopes of clearing up what he called misinformation or a general lack of understanding of what options property appraisers can utilize when assessing homes and businesses.

Crook County Assessor Brian Huber initiated a program earlier this year in which appraisers will inspect local businesses to better determine taxable value. He later informed rural county residents of a plan to inspect their property for the same purpose.

Huber has maintained that he and his staff are required to carry out these actions as mandated by Oregon Revised Statute, and believes the approach will improve equity among taxpayers. However, the decisions have rankled residents, some of whom have voiced their concerns to the Patriots.

“We have heard a lot of stories,” Brookhart said. “It is our view that what is happening in not good for the county.”

Patriots leaders, therefore, chose to host the forum and invited an attorney to speak to what the statutes mandate and what rights property owners have when appraisers show up at their door.

“Are you required to let a tax assessor in your home?” Brookhart offered as a possible discussion point. “Are you even required to let a tax assessor on your property? What are your basic individual rights as a property owner?”

Brookhart has found that many property owners believe they know the rules, but all seem to interpret them differently.

“The tax assessor has been very quick to say that these Oregon Revised Statutes are mandating his actions,” he said. “So we thought it would be good to have an attorney kind of balance that out.”

The Patriots invited Huber to speak at the forum, and he initially agreed to attend, but later withdrew. Brookhart said he has asked the assessor to reconsider, telling Huber that his presence would make the forum better and give him a chance to speak to his constituents.

While Huber will not participate, another elected official, Sheriff Jim Hensley, has agreed to speak on how the tax assessment programs will affect law enforcement. County Commissioner Seth Crawford is also invited to speak, addressing the role of the Crook County Court when it comes to the local tax picture.

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