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King County Department of Assessments

Fair, equitable, and understandable property valuations
DEPT. OF ASSESSMENTS
500 Fourth Ave.,
#ADM-AS-0708
Seattle, WA 98104

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Mon - Fri: 
8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

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Tel: 206-296-7300
Fax: 206-296-5107
TTY: 206-296-7888

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Date: February 10, 2011

Property taxes increase slightly in 2011; Due mainly to voter-approved levies

Property Value Decline Slows

King County residents can expect to receive their 2011 property tax bills during the week of February 14. Total aggregate property tax collections in King County are up 3.33 percent in 2011 over 2010, primarily driven by voter-approved levies. Whether an individual's tax bill has increased or not from the previous year is largely dependent on their location. The total value of property in King County continued to decline for the 2011 tax roll, but the drop is less than the previous year.

"Taxpayers may be wondering how their property values can go down, but their property taxes go up. I know this seems counter-intuitive," said King County Assessor Lloyd Hara. "Several factors can cause this to happen. The most common is that voters in their area have approved a property tax measure, typically a school levy, and that increased the overall property tax levy that is reflected on the 2011 bill."

Key factors in King County's 2011 property tax picture include:

  • Voters approved replacement levies (M&O) for 15 school districts.
  • Voters approved transportation levies for three school districts.
  • Voters approved capital project levies for 11 school districts, and general obligation bonds for two school districts.
  • Voters approved property tax levy lid lifts for the King County Library District, the City of Black Diamond, the City of Milton, and the City of Shoreline.
  • Voters approved several new taxing districts, including Normandy Park Metropolitan Park District, Des Moines Pool Metropolitan Park District, and the Kent Regional Fire Authority District.
  • Voters approved general obligation bonds for the Si View Metropolitan Park District and Fire District #49/51.

Washington State operates under a "budget-based" property tax system in which taxing districts, such as fire, library and school districts, submit their annual adopted budgets to the assessor who has the responsibility to determine the taxing rate that is necessary to meet the adopted budgets. The rates are based on the value of residential, commercial, and personal property in each county. The assessors are responsible for establishing these property values.

In King County, Treasury Operations collects the property taxes on behalf of the state, cities and taxing districts, and then distributes the revenue to the correct agencies. Under this model, residents only need to make property tax payments to a single location to support the services they receive at all levels of government.

A total of 44 property tax ballot measures were approved by voters for collection in 2011, and 38 were for school district levies. As a result, property taxes will go up in 17 of the 20 school district areas within King County.

About 53 percent of property tax revenue collected in King County goes to support schools. Cities and other local governments, such as fire districts and hospital districts, receive 27 percent of the property tax collection (there are 163 local taxing districts in King County). King County government receives approximately 18 percent, and the Port of Seattle receives 2 percent:

2011 Property Tax Pie Chart

Property taxes are levied against assessed property valuations established the previous year. For example, the property tax bill for 2011 is based on values that were established as of January 1, 2010 (July 31, 2010 for remodels and new construction). Property values for 2011 are being established by King County Assessor's Office appraisers right now and throughout this year, and will be used for the 2012 property tax bills.

"I have directed my staff to take a reasonable and conservative approach to property valuations in recognition of the impact of foreclosures, financial institution sales, and the volatility currently in the market place," Hara continued. "I want to ensure that every valuation is fair and equitable."

Total property tax collections for all purposes in King County will total $3.542 Billion in 2011, up 3.33 percent from $3.427 Billion in 2010. Total property tax collections increased countywide by 1.18 percent in 2010 and 6.16 percent in 2009.

The portion of the property tax collected that is not affected by voter levies declined in 2011 over 2010 by 3.56 percent -- $2.046 Billion in 2011 compared to $2.122 Billion in 2010. This is due to the decline in property valuations. Non-voted property tax collections are for the State, the King County General Fund, fire districts, and the incorporated cities, for example.

Voter-approved property tax collections - primarily school district levies -- were up 14.5 percent in 2011 over 2010 -- $1.495 Billion in 2011 compared to $1.305 Billion in 2010. New construction accounted for $2.47 Billion in new property valuation.

Changes to property tax bills in King County school district areas vary widely in 2011, from a double digit increase to a decrease. The largest increase was in the Tukwila School District at 10.9 percent, while the largest decrease was in the Vashon Island School District at 2 percent.

The total assessed value of property in King County was down 3.38 percent in 2010, a smaller decline than in 2009 when total assessed values dropped 11.61 percent. The total assessed value of property in King County is $330.4 Billion for 2011 taxing purposes (2010 assessment), down from the $342 Billion for 2010 taxing purposes (2009 assessment).

Residential and commercial property in King County is assessed each year at its fair market value. For residential parcels, fair market value is determined by analyzing recent sales of comparable properties in the same area.
Each year, the King County Assessor sends every King County property owner an official Property Value Notice showing the total assessed property values for the current year and the previous year, with separate values shown for land and improvements.

Homeowners who do not pay their property taxes through a mortgage lender can pay quickly and easily online at www.kingcounty.gov/propertytax. Residents can also pay using check, cash, or by credit card in person at King County Treasury Operations, Room 600, 500 Fourth Ave., Seattle.

Payments by check only may be made in person at a convenient Community Service Center location:

  • Blackriver Community Service Center
  • Cottage Lake Community Service Center
  • Covington Community Service Center
  • Northshore Community Service Center
  • Sammamish Community Service Center
  • Vashon Maury Island Community Service Center

Hours and details for Community Service Centers can be found online at www.kingcounty.gov/csc.

To avoid interest and penalties, first half taxes must be paid or postmarked by Monday, May 2 (this deadline date applies in 2011 because the normal deadline of April 30 falls on a Saturday). Second half taxes must be paid or postmarked by Monday, Oct. 31.

Property tax relief programs in King County include:

  • Senior Citizens. Call 206-296-3920.
  • Disabled Persons. Call 206-296-3920.
  • Current use reduction for Farm and Agriculture or Forest land. Call 206-296-3969.
  • Current use reduction for Open Space or Timber. Call 206-205-5170.
  • Remodeling/home improvement exemption. Call 206-205-0656.
  • Destroyed property reduction. Call 206-205-5170.
  • Deferral of Taxes. Call 206-296-3920.

The number for the King County Assessor is 206-296-7300. For assistance with tax matters, contact the King County Tax Advisor at 206-263-9700.

Related Information:

Property Tax Advisor:
http://www.kingcounty.gov/property/TaxAdvisor.aspx

King County Treasury Ecommerce Pay Your Property Tax:
http://www.kingcounty.gov/operations/Finance.aspx