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  • Arne Mortensen

Property Taxes - a top level update


Here is my attempt to explain, with help from our Assessor, Terry McLaughlin, the property taxes in a qualitative way. Mistakes and shortcomings are mine not his.

If you find this bizarre array of taxes and constraints hard to understand, then we are both in the same boat.

Before I go further, though, I’ll give you the bottom line:

Most people will see a 6% to 8% property tax increase in 2018.

The increase in property taxes in 2018 largely is the result of the McCleary decision which led to the legislation to get more taxpayer money to fund public schools. The Washington State Supreme Court’s McCleary decision determined that the legislature did not make ample provisions for the education of all children in Washington State. The merits of this decision or focus is irrelevant (but a reasonable topic for discussion at another time). While your taxes will increase in 2018 due to the legislative response to the McCleary school funding decision, taxes are slated to decrease in 2019 for all school districts in Cowlitz County.

The 2016 property valuations are used for the tax bill in 2017. The recent assessment of property is for the 2018 property taxes.

Property taxes are subject to a wide variety of constraints. There are two 1% constraints on property taxes: One is the 1% limit restricting the growth of regular levies such as the County budget to an increase in levy amounts of 1%. Two is the 1% constitutional limit that limits the amount of property taxes that may be imposed on an individual parcel of property without voter approval to 1 percent, which equates to $10 per $1,000 of assessed value. This constraint directly limits the aggregate sum of property taxes collected in group 1, described below.

Property taxes fall into three categories:

  1. Those subject to the 1% constitutional limit, which limits the amount of property taxes that may be imposed on an individual parcel of property without voter approval to 1 percent of assessed value. This group includes the following taxes:

  2. State

  3. County

  4. City

  5. Fire

  6. Cemetery districts

  7. Library

  8. EMS

  9. Those subject to NO constraint:

  10. Maintenance and operations

  11. Servicing of bonds

  12. Another group subject to NO constraint ( generally called “special” assessments):

  13. Diking districts

  14. Flood districts

  15. Mosquito control

  16. Noxious Weed

  17. Stormwater

2018 will be the first year that the new school taxes impact your bill.


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