The Assessor does not establish the dollar amount of property taxes required nor does the Assessor bill or collect property taxes. The property tax rate is calculated by the Assessor according to statutory limits. The Assessor is responsible for checking the amounts asked for by the taxing districts to make sure they are within the limits set by state law. We also compile all the different levy rates in your taxing areas to determine the total tax rate for your property.
The Assessor does not raise property values in order to increase taxes. The cost of providing public services determines your property tax. Local government consists of various taxing districts including fire districts, regional library, cities, county government, roads, ports. A portion of the tax is distributed to the state for local school support. In addition, property taxes are collected to pay for special voter-approved levies, such as school maintenance and operation levies and fire district bonds. The Assessor sets the levy rates based on taxing district budget requests, statutory limits, and property values. Levy rates are expressed in dollars per thousand dollars of assessed value.
Regular Levies are taxes that a district may impose each year without voter approval. Regular property tax levies are subject to several statutory and constitutional limits.
- The "levy limit" restricts the increase of the levy of individual taxing districts to one percent or to the implicit price deflator, whichever is lower. The base to which the increase is applied is the highest allowable levy since 1986. Amounts attributable to new construction and to increases in utility values are added to the allowed percentage increase. This law applies to a taxing district budget and not to individual properties. RCW 84.55.010.
- The regular levy of each taxing district cannot exceed the following rate, which is determined by the type of district. (The regular districts can also have voter approval for levy rate increases, purpose and/or length of time.) RCW 84.52.010
|County Current Expense||1.800|
|Cities||*3.375 - 3.600|
|Public Utility District||.450|
|Parks and Rec||.600|
|State School (State)||3.600|
|State School (Local)||Varies|
*Unless annexed to Library and/or Fire.
**Has one full-time paid employee or contracts with another municipal corporation for the services of at least one full-time paid employee.
- The aggregate regular levy rate of all senior and junior taxing districts (not including the state, port districts and public utility districts, emergency medical levies, and conservation futures) cannot exceed $5.90. RCW 84.52.043.
- The aggregate of all regular levies (not including port and public utility districts) shall not exceed 1% of true and fair value. WASHINGTON 1972 AMENDMENT STATE CONSTITUTION, ARTICLE VII, Sec. 2 and RCW 84.52.050
Voters within a district may approve excess or special levies. These levies may be for maintenance and operation (M&O) or for construction of buildings or other facilities. M&O levies are generally limited to one year except School Districts & Fire Districts, which are permitted to vote on two to four year levies. Levies to finance general obligation bonds for capital improvement purposes usually obligate the voters to pay annual principal and interest costs over a period of several years. Voter approved excess or special levies are over and above the statutory and constitutional limitations. Qualified senior/disabled persons are exempt from these levies. RCW 84.52.052
The Budget Cycle
Every year the directors or commissioners of all taxing districts meet in open session to determine the amount of taxes to be collected the following year. Public questions or comments are welcomed during this process. Once the budget has been adopted, and a resolution passed by the Taxing District Commissioners, the amount of taxes to be collected is certified to the Assessor. The Assessor computes the levy rate required to raise the certified tax for each district, and insures that none of the constitutional or statutory limitations are violated. After the levy rates have been determined by the Assessor, taxes are extended to all property within the boundaries of the respective districts. The County Treasurer mails tax bills on or around February 14 of the year in which they are collected, and the receipts are distributed back to the various districts.
Do taxes change if values rise or fall?
Not necessarily. Assessed Value is determined the year before property taxes are due and reflect market values in a region. Values may fluctuate due to inflation, when demand exceeds supply, when property characteristics change, or when disaster strikes. The assessor's role is to see that all property within the county is fairly and uniformly valued for tax purposes. This ensures that taxes are distributed among taxpayers impartially. Tax rates are set late in the year after taxing districts submit their annual budgets. The budget for each taxing district is divided by the total value of all parcels served by the district to determine its tax rate. Tax rates for a given tax code area are then added together to achieve a combined tax rate per $1,000 of assessed value.