Comcast agrees to pay $ 155 million to settle with Oregon
The state of Oregon announced Monday that it had settled a longstanding property tax dispute with Comcast. The cable giant has agreed to pay $ 155 million in back taxes in the counties where it operates.
The settlement will continue to result in higher property tax payments from Comcast, although the dollar figure for it was not immediately clear.
Gov. Kate Brown, who announced the deal, urged cities and counties to use at least part of the deal to pay off their share of the state’s $ 22 billion state pension debt. The immediate impact on schools is more bleak as higher property income is offset by lower state government payments.
“We have to solve this problem together, and this agreement is just another piece of the puzzle,” Brown said in a statement.
Comcast and the Oregon Treasury Department were embroiled in a nine-year legal battle over the valuation of company property in the state. The Oregon Supreme Court sided with the state in 2014, ruling that the company may be taxed on the value of its cable contracts and other intangible assets. At the time of the settlement, the Oregon Tax Court had not yet made a decision on the exact amount the company should pay.
Wendy Johnson, who specializes in tax matters with the League of Oregon Cities, said “neither side seems to get what she thinks it should get” in the deal. But she said the knowledge of finally getting large amounts of back taxes is good news for local governments.
Amy Keiter, director of external communications for Comcast in Oregon and southwest Washington, said the company primarily operates in the Willamette Valley region from Portland to Eugene.
“We strive for predictability and security in our taxes,” said Kreiter, “and I think that is what we are most pleased about when we reach this agreement.”
Treasury Department communications director Derrick Gasperini said the 10 counties in which Comcast operates will shortly receive instructions from the state on how to bill the company for their share of after-taxes. The counties then distribute the money to schools and municipalities.
The counties are: Benton, Clackamas, Columbia, Lane, Linn, Marion, Multnomah, Polk, Washington, and Yamhill.
Cities and counties receive the lion’s share of the money. Additionally, any additional property taxes for a school district are offset by lower payments from the state. As a result, the state is getting more money to invest in its entire school benefit fund, said Jim Green, executive director of the Oregon School Boards Association.
“Basically,” said Green, “every school district in the state will benefit from it.”