The History of Oregon’s Tax Supervising and Conservation Commissions

1919 – Origins

Tax Supervising and Conservation Commissions (TSCCs) were created by the Oregon Legislature in 1919. According to an unpublished history of the Multnomah County TSCC (Mason L. Bingham, 1956) this action was prompted by high taxes.

The demand for such a commission developed because of the soaring ad valorem Property tax beginning with the end of World War I and the boom that followed it. At that time conditions similar to what we have now (1956) existed: that is, increased population, demand for more services, and a general rise in the cost of living. By 1921, the owner of property in Multnomah County and particularly in the City of Portland , became ghastly concerned with their increasing tax bills. the following quotation from a pamphlet published by Strong and MacNaughton in March 1921 is interesting and perhaps of current value:

‘We are not experiencing a season of repentance for expenses thoughtlessly incurred and as the jolt comes home of a 22% increase of taxes in one year,the depths of feeling stirred is profound. Truly these are the days when the haughty officeholder gives thanks in his heart of heats that election do not coincide with the taxpaying time. Such a calamity would be nothing short of a massacre and is not to be spoken of lightly.'”

The legislation creating TSCCs was is found in Chapter 375 of the General Laws of Oregon, 1919. It called for commissions in every county having a population of 100,000 or over (of which Multnomah County was the only one), granted them advisory jurisdiction over all public or quasi-public municipalities in the county, and gave the commissions the responsibility:

…to promote efficiency and economy in the expenditure of public funds, to reduce taxes and to procure and keep in orderly sequence a complete record of all  public indebtedness  within  such counties of the state of Oregon…” and to compile…“a complete and comprehensive report of the budgets as presented by the various tax levying boards…”

It is this obligation to maintain a complete record of debts and budgets that has resulted in the TSCC Annual Report which has been published annually since 1922.

The commission that was formed following the 1919 legislation did not get off the ground. The Commissioners faced multiple problems and ended up recommending multiple changes in the statutes in order to facilitate their work.

The 1921 legislative session resulted in two bills relevant to TSCC. House Bill 76 (codified has Chapter 118 of the General Laws of Oregon, 1921) created the state’s local budget law, and HB ___ (codified as Chapter 208) granted TSCC the power to delete items from district budgets and reduce district tax levies.