Fifth-year, tax exemptions approved by state

SALEM — The Oregon Legislature adjourned its short February session on Thursday.

In the waning days, lawmakers approved a number of bills, including Senate bills 1537 and 1565, which could have a significant impact in Polk County.

Approved on March 2, SB 1537 allows high schools — including Dallas, Central and Falls City — to continue their fifth-year programs for students who don’t qualify for Oregon Promise.

Students in that program have the majority of the costs to attend community college paid if they have a cumulative grade-point average of 2.5 in high school, have accepted all federal grants or scholarships to pay for tuition and pay $50 per term as a co-payment.

School officials noted that due to the GPA requirement, some students are left out of the opportunity. With the passage of SB 1537, those students will be allowed to participate through the schools’ current fifth-year programs, now called “post-graduate programs.”

The bill also requires the Higher Education Coordinating Commission to report to legislative committees on education in 2018. That report will include the cost of the program.

SB 1565 allows local governments to exempt new capital improvements valued between $1 million to $25 million from property taxes for industrial business expansion. The exemption is good for three out of five years. The bill was approved on March 2.

The exemption is limited to “rural areas” defined at outside the urban growth area of cities with a population of 40,000 or more. The hope is the bill would encourage business expansion.

Both bills now await Gov. Kate Brown’s signature.

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