LETTER: Increasing property values are good!

As your King County Assessor, I was quite surprised to see my interview with the NW Asian Weekly printed with the headline, “Your higher property tax should ‘make you feel good’” in the July 10th edition.

If you read the original story, the point that I was making was that the recent increase in property values should make King County residents feel better about what is commonly their biggest asset, their home. When I first took office in 2009, real estate values were plummeting in double digits while the unemployment rate was soaring.  In less than 12 months, many of us lost over a quarter of our net worth and the national economy took many years to get back to where we are now.

Today, property values are rising quickly due to the strength of our local economy, with many areas seeing double digit increases.  Many homeowners are now building equity in their homes instead of being upside down on their loans.

As an elected official, I conduct public meetings and one-on-one meetings with residents across the County, and two common questions that I have always been asked are “How does my property value impact my property taxes” and “Where do my property tax dollars go?”

Property value increase may or may not increase your property taxes, it’s dependent upon where you live in the County and the decisions made by your local taxing districts. Property tax revenues are limited to an increase of 1% per year. Washington state is one of the few states in the country that operate under a floating levy rate than a fixed levy rate.  In good economic times, added value for new construction might lower tax rates for the rest of the taxpayers.  The levy rate adjusts to ensure that revenues are collected to support our schools, cities, and other districts. (end)

— Lloyd Hara
King County Assessor

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