King County mails property tax notices to homeowners soon

February 10, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

UPDATED — 9 a.m. Feb. 14, 2011

Most Issaquah homeowners should pay about 29 cents more per $1,000 in assessed value on the property tax bills starting to arrive in mailboxes across King County.

Issaquah and county residents started to receive property tax bills in the mail Monday. The county Assessor’s Office released a property tax breakdown late last week.

Issaquah homeowners pay, on average, $11.13 in property taxes per $1,000 in assessed value. The total amounted to $10.84 last year.

Dollars collected through property taxes help fund the Issaquah School District, King County, and numerous state and regional districts.

The school district receives the largest slice — 44 percent. Issaquah municipal government collects about 20 percent. King County government receives about 18 percent and the Port of Seattle receives 2 percent.

The city has not raised property taxes since 2007. City Council members considered a 1 percent increase last fall, but then backed off after numerous tax measures on the November ballot failed.

Issaquah School District voters ushered in a levy package last February — $172.5 million for maintenance and operations, $1.7 million for transportation and another $38.4 million for technology and critical repairs. Voters also OK’d additional dollars for the King County Library System on the February 2010 ballot.

In the school district, the property tax rate increased by 4 cents per $1,000 in assessed value for 2011, though the number does not tell the entire story.

Districtwide, assessed value declined 1.87 percent from last year. So, despite the rate increase, the school district tax bill for a $350,000 is $17.75 less in 2011 than last year. The average home price in the district is $504,000, so most local homeowners should pay even less to the district.

The school district stretches from Preston to Newcastle and from Sammamish to Renton.

The district collected $87 million in property taxes last year and is projected to take in $86.2 million in the months ahead due to the districtwide decline in assessed property values.

Though assessed value declined in the school district, Issaquah proper defied the trend as property values declined across King County. The average assessed value for residential property in the city climbed to $503,700 from $493,200 last year.

Countywide decline in property values

Countywide, voters approved 44 property tax ballot measures — including 38 school district levies — for collection in 2011.

Washington operates under a budget-based property tax system, meaning local taxing districts — including fire, library and school districts — submit annual adopted budgets to the county assessor. The county assessor then has the responsibility to determine the necessary taxing route to meet the adopted budgets.

King County Assessor Lloyd Hara and other county assessors statewide establish property values.

County Treasury Operations collects the property taxes on behalf of the state, cities and taxing districts, and then distributes the revenue to the correct agencies. So, residents only need to make property tax payments to a single location.

The county uses assessed property valuations established during the previous year to determine property taxes.

The property tax bill for 2011 is based on values established as of Jan. 1, 2010, for existing residences or July 31, 2010, for remodels and construction.

The total assessed value of property in the county totals $330.4 billion for 2011 taxing purposes, a drop from the $342 billion last year.

The county assesses residential and commercial property each year at fair market value. Appraisers determine fair market value for residential parcels by analyzing recent sales of comparable properties in the same area.

Assessor’s Office appraisers plan to continue to update 2011 property values throughout the year to be used for 2012 property tax bills.

“I have directed my staff to take a reasonable and conservative approach to property valuations in recognition of the impact of foreclosures, financial institution sales and the volatility currently in the market place,” Hara said in a Feb. 10 release. “I want to ensure that every valuation is fair and equitable.”

The total property tax collections for all purposes in King County should total $3.542 billion in 2011 — up 3.33 percent from $3.427 billion last year. Collections increased countywide by 1.18 percent in 2010 and 6.16 percent in 2009.

The total assessed value of property in the county declined 3.38 percent last year — a smaller decline than the 11.61 percent drop in 2009.

How to pay property taxes

If a landowner relies on a mortgage company to pay his or her taxes, the statement is sent to the lender. Otherwise, homeowners can pay property taxes online or by check, cash or credit card in person at King County Treasury Operations, Room 600, 500 Fourth Ave., Seattle.

Or, landowners can make payments by check only in person at a Community Service Center. Sammamish City Hall, 801 228th Ave. S.E., hosts a Community Service Center.

The first-half taxes must be paid or postmarked by May 2. The deadline applies in 2011 because the normal deadline, April 30, falls on a Saturday. The remaining taxes must be paid or postmarked by Oct. 31.

The county also offers numerous property tax-relief programs, including breaks for seniors, disabled homeowners, rural landowners and more.

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