Thurston County property owners will begin receiving tax notices early next week, and many will end up paying more than they did last year, according to the Assessor’s Office.
Because of the recession’s effect on property values, the total assessed value for real property in Thurston County dropped by $2 billion in 2010 from the previous year. That means the total property-tax burden is spread over a smaller overall assessment, requiring higher tax rates for many property owners.
In addition, there were school and fire district levy increases passed by either voters or taxing districts in parts of the county.
Those factors helped push the average 2011 tax rate to $11.60 per $1,000 of assessed value, an increase of 11 percent over 2010 and its highest level since 2006, according to Assessor’s Officer figures.
“The most significant cause for an increase in the tax rate is the decrease in overall real property value,” said assessor Steven Drew, noting new and continued taxes are drawing from a smaller overall valuation.
The county treasurer’s office will collect about $10 million more in property taxes than it did last year.
Drew said some of the highest tax rates in the county can be found in two taxing districts in the Yelm area, where property owners will pay $12.47 and $12.66 per $1,000 of assessed value.
According to an Assessor’s Office fact sheet, “property owners in the City of Yelm will see a significant” fire levy tax increase of 83 cents to $1.50 after joining the Northeast Thurston Fire Authority. For a home valued at $250,000, this represents an increase of $207.
Across the county, about 40 percent of property owners will see their bill jump between $1 and $150 compared with last year, according to assessor figures.
About half of all property owners will pay between $50 more and $50 less than they did in 2010.
The combination of lower property values and higher taxes during tough economic times is expected to create “unprecedented interest” once bills are in the hands of taxpayers next week, Drew said.
That’s why Drew and his office are collaborating with Treasurer Shawn Myers and her office to give taxpayers a clear, accurate path for answering questions and fielding concerns, he said. They also released a tax flow chart they say will help aid taxpayers who wonder which department is responsible for different parts of the process.
“There is a substantial disconnect for most voters between the votes they may take on issues and how that pretty much results in the tax bill they ultimately get,” Drew said.
What it boils down to is making sure people understand what’s on their tax statements and that they know where to bring questions.
If taxpayers have questions about their statements and the information provided or about payment, they should contact the Treasurer’s Office. If they have questions about property value or levy rates, those should be addressed to the assessor.
Making it easier to pay taxes also is on the front burner for Myers, who said her office sent out about 4,800 notices to taxpayers who didn’t make their first or second payment in 2010.
She hopes to cut into that number by promoting the county’s automatic-payment method.
Each tax statement, which Myers said is also easier to navigate and brings back the popular calendar stickers, also will include information about the automatic payment option.
Myers said she would like to double the number of people using this option to nearly 3,000 this year.
Nate Hulings: 360-754-5476 firstname.lastname@example.org www.theolympian.com/outsideoly