Taxpayers don’t think about it much, we suspect, but property taxes in Bend — as in other communities around the region — go to fund a variety of agencies, only one of which is the city in which the taxpayer lives.
Bend residents pay taxes to support Deschutes County, the Sheriff’s Office, schools, parks, the library, and so on. In addition, we pay taxes for bonds that have built schools, the main library, streets, the fairgrounds and the jail.
When each of those bonds was approved, voters clearly felt the amenities it financed were important to the community.
Government agencies don’t have a whole lot of control over how much each taxpayer spends to keep the agency’s doors open. That’s determined by property values and state law.
The situation is different when it comes to taxes used to pay off bonds. Agencies choose how much to ask for and when to ask for it.
Wise voters no doubt make their decisions on each request based in part on what they believe other agencies will need in the near future.
And, no doubt, agencies themselves try to put their bond measures on the ballot when they are most likely to be approved, ideally when there are no other bond issues to decide and haven’t been for some time.
Eric King, Bend city manager, would like to see something a bit more formal in deciding when voters should be asked to support bonds.
He’s not alone in worrying that without some coordination, bonds for necessary improvements might fail because voters feel taxed out. The Bend Chamber of Commerce also is looking into the matter.
We agree that the current system — or lack of a system — poses problems. We also agree that governments are right to try to find a solution.
Doing so won’t be easy, however. One person’s community necessity — new schools, say — may be relatively unimportant to another. Persuading one agency to hold off on something its patrons say is vital may be difficult, if not impossible.
Still, it’s worth a try.