By Irfan Shariff
Northwest Asian Weekly
The King County Department of Assessment (Assessor’s Office) has started mailing real estate valuations that will help set what taxes you pay on your property in 2015. It will continue to mail to the 86 different residential areas through October. Last year, 76 areas saw an increase in valuation, and the Assessor’s Office expects to see continued growth this year.
“The market is coming around,” said King County Assessor Lloyd Hara. “That should make you feel good.”
As of press date, 21 areas have received their valuation notices. All have seen increases. Rainier Beach, Tukwila, Seatac, and parts of Kent have seen increases of 20 percent or more.
Hara and his team of 200 employees valuate the 700,000 parcels of property each year and physically inspect one-sixth (about 125,000) of them to pick up any changes or improvements. This year, areas of Beacon Hill, Rainier Valley, Federal Way, Bellevue, and Mercer Island will be inspected.
“One of the things we are still seeing as value starts to go up, there are still areas where there is still true value for first-time home buyers,” said Hara about neighborhoods like Rainer Beach.
“Relative to other major metropolitan areas, Seattle is pretty strong, but still lower than others,” said Hara.
Real estate value isn’t the only thing that determines your property taxes for the next year. Hara said that Washington state is different than other states because it assesses based on revenue. In addition to property value, “the tax rate is based on the adopted budgets of the taxing districts, new construction, and voter-approved levies.”
There are 165 taxing districts and 594 levies in King County. Depending on which taxing district you live in and which levies are in place there, your levy rate is set. The levy rate multiplied by the assessed value of your property (property value divided by 1,000) will give you an estimate of your property taxes.
It is quite possible that your taxes can increase even if your property value decreases, because in some areas, voter-approved levies can account for 50 percent or more of your tax rate.
“It depends upon where your property is located,” said Hara. “The tax rate varies quite a bit throughout King County.” Constitutionally, however, the tax levy rate is limited to a 1 percent annual increase.
Compared to the rest of the county, the “City of Seattle has the simplest way of figuring tax rate and is limited to four taxing districts,” said Hara.
Over half of property taxes in King County go to support K-12 school programs and only about 17 percent goes to support the county itself. Another 17 percent goes to cities, 2 percent to the port, and, depending on where you live, some goes to programs such as libraries, fire departments, cemeteries, or parks.
Property tax forms are mailed to landowners in February by the King County Treasurer and paid in two halves to King County Treasury Operations in April and October, which then distributes funds appropriately.
Hara said there are a couple major programs to get help with paying property taxes—one for senior citizens aged 62 or older and one for the disabled and veterans. Both require an annual income of $35,000 or less. If your income is $25,000 or less, you can qualify for a portion of your property value or tax reduced. In some cases, senior citizens can get back credit for up to three years if eligible.
“I encourage those that meet the threshold to come in,” said Hara.
The Assessor’s Office website offers access to a database of the 700,000 parcels in King Count via eReal Property Search. It gives estimates on value, tax levy rate, transaction history, and more.
As the Assessor’s Office continues to notify property owners of revaluations, the eReal Property Search database offers a chance to compare your property to others in your area or neighbors. If you feel your property is under- or over-valued, state law puts the responsibility on the property owner to file an appeal and go before the Board of Equalization, which can raise or lower you property value.
“You have 60 days from the date of notice to make an appeal if you feel your property value is incorrect,” said Hara. The process should be started online through the eAppeals application on the Assessor’s Office website.
In general, Hara is hopeful for the area and sees the property value increase as a good thing.
“There is almost a one-to-one correlation between employment and real estate value,” said Hara. “It shows the economy is improving.”
“When I walked in the doors in 2009, you not only lost value in your home, but also a decrease in your net worth by about 25 percent,” said Hara. “This has all turned around. Hopefully, people are back to where they were in 2008.” (end)
For more information, visit the King County Assessor’s website at http://www.kingcounty.gov/Assessor.
To learn more about filing an appeal, visit http://www.kingcounty.gov/eappeals.
Irfan Shariff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org