• Arne Mortensen

Property Assessments in Cowlitz County

Recently almost everyone received their property assessment showing in most cases double digit increases from the last assessment. While this may gratify those who are trying to sell, most of us are just worried about the increase in property taxes we will face. But, let me explain why this likely will not lead to a drastic increase in property taxes.

If we think of all the property tax money collected last year as represented by 100%, this number in the following year, by RCW, is limited to 101%. So, if all properties went up an equal percentage, then any individual property tax would grow at most by 1%. So, for this example, if you paid $100 last year, you would likely pay $101 this year… no government passes up an opportunity to raise taxes, so I assume the 1% increase is a given.

That isn’t quite the whole story, however. Taxes from new construction are added on top of that 101%; so, new construction in the county can result in property tax revenue exceeding 101% of the prior year. So, among many other benefits, building the methanol plant and the coal terminal would bring new money to the county tax revenue; that is true of any new enterprise that builds in Cowlitz County, of course.

While the one percent growth in property tax limits is the general rule, there are complex details, which can be found in RCW 84.55 (LIMITATIONS UPON REGULAR PROPERTY TAXES) .

BTW, there was an article in TDN some days ago about some county elected officials being unhappy that the legislature did not remove that 1% cap on property tax. While I am fearful of the serious budget “challenges” the county faces, I know that there never is enough tax revenue, no matter how much is collected, so we must hold the line before we totally kill the “golden” goose. The legislature was correct to keep the limit in place.

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