Gold mine one-quarter of total taxable property valuation
OROVILLE – The Oroville area is undergoing a new assessment by the Okanogan County Assessor’s office to determine property values within the school district for taxation purposes.
“We have just started to appraise the properties in the Oroville School District. We are under the new annual assessment, but that doesn’t mean we reevaluate ever year, it just means that we look at different areas of the county each year to determine if values have gone up or down,” said Scott Furman, Okanogan County Assessor.
“If we know an area has seen increases or decreases in market value we can take that into account at that time, but we must complete a total reevaluation of each area at least every six years,” Furman said.
The Oroville School District contains about 9,000 parcels and the appraisals will take about a year. These evaluations will take affect for property taxes for 2014, according to Furman.
“The market is seeing some signs of life, but it is still too early to see if we are coming out of this recession,” the assessor said. “Everything else has pretty much held the line, but I expect we will see some increases in lakefront values.”
Furman said he expects the values to increase within the Oroville School District in the future, but that the Kinross’ Buckhorn Gold Mine in Chesaw, which is within the district, will be closing June 30, 2015.
“That affects the taxing district in the area, the mine accounts for 25 percent of the valuation. Of the $600 million in valuation in the Oroville School District, about $150 million is from the gold mine,” he said. “Next year should be the high water mark for the mine, about $180 million, and it will start dropping and a tax shift occurs to the remaining property owners.”
Furman said that school levy rates, which have remained stable for over a decade despite the loss of levy equalization, will start to increase, unless the district again qualifies for levy equalization dollars.
“That’s something I hadn’t thought of, your district lost the equalization because of the big jump in total property values a few years back. Levy equalization is something that is based on a formula the ESD (Educational Services District) uses… I’m not sure if the mine’s closure would put it back to where you’d get a match from the state.”
Furman said the mine closure and decreased property valuation would affect junior taxing districts, like the Oroville EMS Rural.
“The mine closure will affect those folks, but 2016 is still a few years down the line. People need to know what changes are coming to look at for long range planning,” he said. “People run these levies two years, four years, six years… it is something they need to take into account.”
The assessor’s office recently did a new appraisal for Kinross. Basically the one they had was done with old information, according to the assessor.
“Next year the valuation will be about $180 million, then it will decline to reflect a reduction in production. I think we were all holding out hope that there will be additional reserves to extend the mine’s life, but that hasn’t happened. It certainly doesn’t mean that it is the end of mining in this area though. ”
He said new construction in the area will help to offset some of the loss, but not nearly all.”It is a courtesy of my job, even if the closure is two or three years away, to let the decision makers know what I see in the future happening up there. I see the closure most affecting the school district and the EMS Rural District. The hospital will be affected, but not as much as it draws from property valuations in both the Oroville and Tonasket school districts.”