The property tax pictures in Pierce and King counties

Mar 8th, 2021 | By | Category: News

While real estate values continue to surge in Pierce County, property taxes aren’t.

Statutory limits on property tax rates are holding tax increases to modest levels this year, according to Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer Mike Longergan. Countywide, property taxes being billed in 2021 total $1.6 billion, a 4.8 percent increase over 2020.

“For the past three years, tax bills fluctuated due to the McCleary (state Supreme Court) decision on school funding,” Lonergan said. “This year they’ve settled down in most areas, even decreasing in a couple (taxing) districts.”

In King County, the COVID 19 pandemic hasn’t affected home balues, but some businesses have taken a major hit, according to officials.

Property tax statements for 2021 were mailed in February to the owners of residential and commercial land and buildings. For homes where the tax is paid through an escrow account, the statement was sent to the bank or mortgage company.

Pierce County

In addition to schools, property taxes pay for city and county government, fire districts, emergency medical service, parks, libraries, roads, Port of Tacoma, Sound Transit and flood control.  Fees for conservation, noxious weed control and surface water are also included on the property tax statement.

The state and local portions for schools add up to 59 percent of all property taxes in Pierce County.  The cities and county, including the road district, add up to 21 percent, and fire districts equal 11 percent.  Together, they register 90 percent of Pierce County’s property tax.

The annual tax is determined by multiplying property value (in thousands of dollars) by the combined rate of all taxing districts where the property is located.

Lonergan said 2020 saw hefty increases for most property owners, due to the Legislature’s increase in the maximum local school district Enrichment Levy, from $1.50 to $2.50 per $1,000 of property value. Voter-approved enrichment levies in the Puyallup and White River school districts are taking effect this year, resulting in tax increases of $350 and $500 respectively, in the “average” homes in those districts.  Tacoma residents will experience the smallest increase–$40 on the average home, largely due to a reduced Metropolitan Park District construction bond.

Residents of the Orting School District fared best this year, with taxes on the average home reduced by $170 due to decreased school levy rates. Tax rates also dropped in the Graham fire district because of a new public funding system which is calculated differently than taxes.

King County

Voter approval of special levies, in conjunction with a strong housing market, will generate a 4 general increase in King County property tax collections for 2021 – although some jurisdictions will see double-digit increases.

Overall, countywide collections for the 2021 tax year are $6.6 billion, an increase of $256 million from the previous year. Total property value increased by 2.6 percent, from $642.5 billion to $659.5 billion.

“This year’s tax bills reflect the complexity of our property tax system,” said Assessor John Wilson. “Taxes are going up for many county residents, but not all. And the pandemic has hit the economy hard, but hasn’t dramatically affected property values.”

While residential housing values have remained steady during the pandemic, some commercial sectors are heavily impacted. Wilson noted that, by state law, values are set as of Jan. 1 each year. Taxes collected this year are based on the value of the property on Jan. 1, 2020. So any changes in commercial values resulting from COVID impacts will be reflected in the 2021 assessed value for taxes payable in 2022, he explained.

About 57 percent of 2021 King County property tax revenue pays for schools. The taxes also fund voter-approved measures for veterans and seniors, fire protection, and parks. Approximately 17 percent of taxes pay for roads, police, criminal justice, public health, elections, and parks.

 

SENIOR, DISABLED AND MILITARY EXEMPTIONS: IT’S THE LAW

State law provides property tax exemptions and deferrals for seniors, disabled persons, and military veterans. For those who qualify in Pierce County, King County and elsewhere in Washington, the value of their property is frozen for property tax purposes and they are exempt from all excess and special levies and possibly regular levies, resulting in a reduction of their taxes. The exemption is available for the homeowner’s primary residence and up to one acre of land. A mobile home may qualify, even if the land under the residence is leased or rented.

To qualify, taxpayers must be 60 years old or older, or retired because of physical disability. They must meet an equity requirement, live in the home at least nine months in a calendar year, and have an annual household income of $67,411 or less for the previous year. Deferred taxes plus accumulated interest become a lien on the property until the total amount is repaid.

More information is available from the King County assessor at kingcounty.gov/assessor/seniors,   propertytax.customerservice@kingcounty.gov, or 206-263-2338, and from the Pierce County assessor-treasurer at 253-798-6111, pcatr@piercecountywa.gov, and co.pierce.wa.us.

Share