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Property tax bills going in the mail today
People are getting more than candy and roses today. Property tax bills for 2014 went in the mail Feb. 14 to King County residents and should arrive at taxpayer mailing addresses shortly thereafter.
Total property valuations are approaching pre-recession levels at $340.6 billion, (2008 total property value was $341 billion) up 7.6 percent overall from 2013 ($314.7 billion).
“Property values for King County have continued to show signs of strengthening as we emerge from the Great Recession,” said King County Assessor Lloyd Hara. “Of the 86 residential geographic areas in King County designated by the Department of Assessments, we saw a residential valuation decrease only in 10 areas for the 2013 assessment year.”
Commercial real estate valuations also have reflected this upward trend. The overall valuation for commercial property in King County has increased from $110.1 billion in 2013 to $120.3 billion in 2014.
In some parts of King County, up to 50 percent of 2014 property taxes might be voter-approved tax measures, county officials said. In the majority of cases, an increase in property taxes is due to voter-approved property tax measures. These are typically school, fire, or other levies or bonds. People can find out their tax levy rate and more property related information by visiting eReal Property Search on the King County Assessor’s website at www.kingcounty.gov/assessor.
For 2014, property taxes in King County have increased 5.64 percent overall, from $3.72 billion to $3.93 billion. However, a person's property tax increase will vary depending on where the property is located and what voter-approved levies were passed.
Countywide, voters approved a six-year temporary lid lift for the renewal of the Parks levy at a rate of $0.18 cents per $1,000 of all taxable assessed value that would generate $63 million in revenue, and a six-year renewal of the Emergency Medical services (EMS) levy at a rate of $0.335 cents or less per $1,000 of all taxable assessed value.
Some property owners who are seeing property values decline, but property taxes increase may be wondering why that is.
Washington state operates under a revenue or “budget-based” property tax system in which taxing districts, such as counties, cities, ports, and fire, library, and school districts submit their annual adopted budgets or revenue requests to the assessor. The assessor then determines the taxing rate that is necessary to generate enough revenue to meet the adopted budgets.
The tax rates are based on the value of residential, commercial, and personal property in each county, which is established by the assessors. Washington voters in 2001 initially approved Initiative 747, which imposed a 1 percent cap on revenue per year unless voters approve additional levies and bonds.
State and local schools receive 53.8 percent of property tax revenue collected in King County. Cities and other local governments, such as fire districts and hospital districts, receive about 26 percent of the property tax collection (there are 161 local taxing districts in King County). King County government receives approximately 17.8 percent, and the Port of Seattle receives just under 2 percent of the property tax.
Property taxes for 2014 are levied against assessed property valuations established the previous year. For example, the property tax bill for 2014 is based on values that were established as of January 1, 2013 (July 31, 2013 for remodels and new construction). Property values for 2014 are being established by King County Assessor’s Office appraisers right now and throughout this year, and will be used for the 2015 property tax bills.
“Our goal is always to make sure our property valuations are accurate, fair, and equitable, so that each property owner pays only their fair share of property taxes – no more nor no less than they are required to by law,” Hara said. The assessor or his staff members are available for community meetings.
In King County, Treasury Operations, not the assessor, collects the property taxes on behalf of the state, cities, and taxing districts, and then distributes the revenue to the correct government. Homeowners who do not pay their property taxes through a mortgage lender can pay online at www.kingcounty.gov/propertytax. Residents also can pay using check, cash, or by credit card (convenience fee added) in person at King County Treasury Operations, 500 Fourth Ave., Suite 600, Seattle, Wash.
Payments by check may only be made in person at any of the six King County Community Service Centers located throughout the county. For a listing of Community Service Centers and their business hours and contact information, visit www.kingcounty.gov/CSC. To avoid interest and penalties, first half property taxes must be paid or postmarked by April 30, 2014. Second half property taxes must be paid or postmarked by Oct. 31, 2014.
Property tax relief programs in King County include:
- Senior & Disability Exemptions: 206-296-3920
- Current use reduction for farm and agriculture or forest land: 206-263-2374
- Current use reduction for open space or timber: 206-205-5170
- Remodeling/home improvement exemption: 206-263-2338
- Destroyed property reduction: 206-263-2332
- Deferral of taxes: 206-296-3920
For property tax questions, call King County Treasury at 206-296-0923. For assistance with tax matters, contact the King County Tax Advisor at 206-477-1060. The number for the King County Assessor is 206-296-7300 or visit www.kingcounty.gov/assessor.