By Jack Mayne

Kent’s property tax bills are up over 15 percent – but don’t blame the Kent city government – blame the Washington Legislature for approving the new school financing scheme resulting from the state Supreme Courts’ so-called McCleary decision.

King County Assessor John Arthur Wilson says county property taxes will generally increase “about 17 percent on average this year, primarily due to additional taxes passed by the Legislature to increase funding for K-12 education.

“About 57 percent of property tax revenues collected in King County pays for schools. Property taxes also fund voter-approved measures for veterans and seniors, fire protection, and parks among other services,” Wilson said.

South King County also includes the wealthy of Normandy Park, which has the lowest property tax growth rate in the county at 9.06 percent. Wilson said that homes in the wealthy community have maintained their previous values, and so there was only a small change.

Tax increase percentages of nearby communities have gone up more than Normandy Park. Des Moines property taxes are increasing almost 21 percent; SeaTac up to nearly 19 percent, and Tukwila up 17 percent.

The biggest tax rate hits was in the east King County city of Carnation, where the tax rate skyrocketed 37.47 percent.

In Kent, the median cost of a home was $285,000, but that increased to a median home cost of $324,000 in 2018. Taxes on that valuation went from $3,484 to $4,020 this year, or an increase of 15.4 percent, says the assessor.

First, the price of your home and your property is going up with inflation, but that was the old news.

The new, added reason for the hike is the fact that after years of being told by the Washington Supreme Court the Washington Legislature had to respond to the court’s declaration that it was unconstitutionally supporting the common school.

The legislature wrote the new tax code.

“The State Supreme Court ruled that the state must make new investments into public education; as a result the legislature added $1.01 per thousand dollars of assessed value, in King County, to their portion of property tax collection in order to fund the mandate,” says Wilson.

Some city officials have said this increase could increase the number of homeless if poorer residents are unable to pay the added taxes.

Assessor Wilson agrees.

“We know that property taxes can be especially tough for those on fixed incomes,” Wilson said, adding that his department has been “aggressively reaching out to seniors, veterans and disabled homeowners with the property tax exemption program.”

Low-income seniors, veterans and disabled homeowners may qualify for a property-tax exemption offered by King County. Information on how to apply for an exemption, along with other property-assessment-related information, can be found at Property taxes vary depending upon location, the assessed value of the property, and the number of jurisdictions levying taxes (such as state, city, county, school district, port, fire district, etc).

With property taxes going up 16.92 percent on average, that means countywide property tax billings will be $5.6 billion in 2018, up from $ 4.8 billion last year. Aggregate property values in King County increased by 13.41 percent, going from $471.5 billion in 2017 to $534.7 billion in 2018.

To avoid interest and penalties, the first half property taxes must be paid or postmarked by April 30, 2018. The second half property taxes must be paid or postmarked by Oct. 31, 2018.

To view the full report, click here (PDF file).

Scott Schaefer

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