Tax notices arriving in property owners' mailboxes early next month may provide an unwelcome surprise for those expecting a decrease in their tax bill after seeing a drop in their property assessment.
The total assessed value of real property in Thurston County dropped by more than $1 billion last year, but that doesn’t translate into tax relief for all property owners.
Government continues to collect more in taxes. Whether a property owner bears more or less of that tax obligation depends on the valuation of his or her land as it relates to the value of neighboring parcels. If the value of your property is decreasing slower than the neighboring parcels, your property taxes will go up, and vice versa.
County officials said it’s the first time in many years the county’s total assessed value has fallen.
Of the 118,000 individual parcels in the county, about half will see a tax increase with the remaining owners seeing a tax decrease, according to the treasurer’s office.
Thurston County Treasurer Robin Hunt, girding for a flood of phone calls to her office, is asking residents to exercise patience if they want answers about their individual tax bill on the phone or in person.
“It’s been a long time since values decreased,” she said in a news release. “People have forgotten why when values go down, their tax bill still increases. My staff will have to do a quick re-education process as customers call and stop by.”
The treasurer’s office is expected to collect $303 million in property taxes for the year, an $8 million, or 2.6 percent, increase compared with 2009. That’s less than the 7 percent average increase in total property taxes collected during the past four years.
Some taxpayers might see a higher bill due to voter-approved levies or bonds. Voter-approved measures account for about 40 percent of property taxes in recent years.
The tax notices also include assessments for organizations that manage lakes, stormwater and noxious weeds that have nothing to do with property values. The treasurer’s office expects to collect $5.5 million for these organizations this year, a 17 percent increase from 2009.
A state law allows citizens to pay their taxes once the amounts are known or shared. Taxes can be paid through the county treasurer’s Web site or in person by visiting the treasurer’s office in Building 1 at the Thurston County Courthouse, 2000 Lakeridge Drive S.W., between the hours of 9 a.m. and noon, and 1 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. There is no fee associated with an electronic transaction.
For property owners who don’t pay in full, the first half of their tax payment is due April 30; the second half is due Oct. 31. Interest and penalties apply for property owners who miss the deadlines.
Residents can find out how much they owe at the Thurston County treasurer’s Web site, www.co.thurston.wa.us/treasurer.
The office will mail tax notices Feb. 8.
Anyone who has not received a tax notice by the end of February should call the treasurer’s office at 360-786-5550.
Christian Hill: 360-754-5427