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Lincoln County School Board waives construction tax for wildfire victims

School board reversed its earlier position to impose a construction excise tax on wildfire victims after public outcry.

PORTLAND, Ore. — The Lincoln County School Board voted to waive a new construction tax for wildfire survivors trying to rebuild.

“I hope our community knows how much we love them,” district superintendent Dr. Karen Gray said during a school board meeting Tuesday night. “We don’t want to add insult to injury.”

The school board reversed its earlier position to impose a construction excise tax on wildfire victims after public outcry.

“I just want people to know we’ve read their letters and feel their heartbreak,” said board member Liz Martin.

RELATED: 'They’re kicking you while you are down': Wildfire victims face school district tax as they try to rebuild

In October, Lincoln County School Board members said their hands were tied because of how the state law was written.

Superintendent Gray said she was told by Oregon state Rep. David Gomberg that school districts do not have the discretion to waive the Construction Excise Tax for wildfire victims.

Gomberg said his information was based on advice from the Office of Legislative Counsel.  

A KGW investigation found other school districts provided tax waivers for victims of natural disasters, including the Greater Albany School District.

On Oct. 15, the North Santiam School District waived its construction excise tax for victims of the Beachie Creek fire.

RELATED: Lincoln County school superintendent claims other districts 'break the law' by providing construction tax waiver to wildfire victims

The Lincoln County School District later sought the legal advice of the Oregon School Board Association. An OSBA lawyer found the law to be vague on whether school districts can provide temporary construction tax waivers for wildfire victims.

The Lincoln County tax waiver would apply to victims looking to rebuild their homes destroyed in the Echo Mountain wildfire. The temporary waiver would apply only to primary residences, not rentals or secondary homes. Additionally, the waiver is only available to people rebuilding homes equal to or smaller than their original house.