Oregon Tax Court rules Department of Revenue without authority to rescind Happy Valley boundary change; No longer part of NCPRD

From: Tim Heider, Clackamas County Public Affairs Manager, 503-742-5911

Media and Interested Parties

The Oregon Tax Court has ruled that the Oregon Department of Revenue (DOR) exceeded its authority in rescinding approval of a boundary change sought by the City of Happy Valley during its attempt to withdraw from the North Clackamas Parks and Recreation District (NCPRD). 

The decision invalidates a DOR decision in June rescinding the boundary approval, and reinstates the DOR’s March approval of the boundary change. DOR had asserted Happy Valley failed to follow appropriate state law with its withdrawal. 

The court ruled that DOR’s authority to rescind a boundary change is limited only to checking the accuracy of legal description and map. The DOR had concluded that Happy Valley used the wrong statute to withdraw.

County Assessor Tami Little said Tuesday that her office will comply with the Tax Court order.

The Tax Court ruling did not address the issue of whether the city used the appropriate statute to withdraw from NCPRD. Clackamas County, the Assessor, and NCPRD have filed an action in Clackamas County Circuit Court seeking clarity on that issue.  

The Circuit Court is being asked to determine if the city, which was annexed into NCPRD using ORS 198, also has to be withdrawn under ORS 198.  

The immediate operational effect of the ruling means that NCPRD will continue to own parks within Happy Valley but cannot collect the revenue needed to pay for operations or maintenance. 

The district owns or operates parks totaling more than 78 acres within Happy Valley, including Mt. Talbert Nature Park. NCPRD also operates the 35-acre Hood View Park via an agreement with North Clackamas School District which now owns the site.

Revenue from the property tax collected within Happy Valley accounted for approximately $1.45 million for NCPRD in 2017.

“We are surprised by this ruling and we are assessing its effects, including making a decision on how or whether we will manage our assets within Happy Valley, given that we will no longer have a funding source,” said Clackamas County Chair Jim Bernard.

Last spring Happy Valley residents approved a ballot measure establishing a five-year local option to pay for city-offered Parks and Recreation Services. That followed the City Council’s decision to withdraw from NCPRD.

NCPRD was formed as a taxpayer-funded service district in 1990 and Happy Valley was annexed into the district in 2006. NCPRD serves more than 122,000 total residents (including Happy Valley residents). Of these, over 80,000 reside in unincorporated northern Clackamas County including Oak Grove/Jennings Lodge, unincorporated Milwaukie, and east of I-205. 

For more information media may contact Tim Heider, Clackamas County Public Affairs Manager, at 503-742-5911 or theider@clackamas.us