Boise Cascade seeks $900K tax refund

By Venice Buhain
The Daily News

Oct 23, 2003

Oregon - Boise Cascade wants a $900,000 refund on property taxes paid at its paper mill in St. Helens, and agencies throughout the county would feel the impact if the company's appeal succeeds.

For 2002-2003, the state Department of Revenue assessed the mill at $131 million. According to papers filed with the Oregon Tax Court, the company says the state overestimated the value by $61 million.

Company officials argue the state should have also accounted for the depressed economy and rising costs, which has cut profits, said Ray Berrick, financial manager for Boise Paper Solutions.

"It should be based on its ability to create income, [and] industry conditions have been poor right now," Berrick said Wednesday.

Taxes on the disputed $61 million valuation amounted to $900,000. Boise Cascade and the county are negotiating the appeal, county assessor Tom Linhares said.

Representatives of all 28 taxing districts in the county --- school boards, ports, fire districts, for example --- are scheduled to meet Nov. 13 to discuss whether to sock away money now in case the disputed taxes must be paid back.

"It might be more prudent to put the money away," said County Commissioner Joe Corsiglia, board president. "It's hard to bring money back once it's spent."

The company's paper mill, within the St. Helens city limits, paid about $2 million in taxes last year to districts that included the county, Columbia River Fire and Rescue, Columbia 911 and Portland Community College. The company's total tax assessment for the plant was $14.83 per $1,000 of assessed value.

Though not all districts collect money from Boise, all taxing districts in Columbia County would have to pitch in to pay the company back, plus 12 percent interest, Linhares said. Interest payments on $900,000 would push the refund over $1 million.

City funds won't be affected.

Boise is Columbia County's biggest taxpayer and one of its biggest employers.

The state Department of Revenue judges the value of properties about every six years. Berrick said the company appeals its taxes every year as a matter of course. He said an appeal, rather than a negotiation, sets a legal basis for future assessments.

Boise and the county negotiated a lower tax assessment in 2001-02, Linhares said, lowering the mill's assessed value from $124 million to $110 million. Boise has not yet appealed this year's taxes, but tax bills just went out this week, he said.


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