Voter-approved school funding bumps up property taxes

There’s no sugar-coating it. Property tax bills in Pierce County will be bigger this year. Taxes on the average home will rise by 4 percent to 9 percent in Puyallup, Edgewood, Steilacoom and DuPont. And they’re the lucky ones, says the county’s tax man.

The rest of Pierce County will see double-digit increases, with the highest around 20 percent in Lakewood, University Place, Parkland-Spanaway and Fircrest. Tacoma and Gig Harbor taxes will each go up an average of 14 percent.

According to County Assessor-Treasurer Mike Lonergan, the increase is primarily a result of two factors–actions by the Legislature in its continued response to the statewide McCleary school funding case, and votes by local citizens authorizing increased tax rates in various taxing districts.

 â€œThe Legislature’s previous limit of $1.50 per thousand dollars of property value on local school enrichment levies was increased to $2.50,” Lonergan said, “and a 30-cent reduction in the state school levy has expired. So that’s a $1.30 per thousand increase to start with.”

In addition, voters in the Bethel, Peninsula and Yelm school districts and the city of Fircrest passed capital bond issues taking effect in 2020, and six fire districts have voter-approved levies starting this year.

While assessed property values in Pierce County continue to rise, “that’s not what drives these big increases,” Lonergan said. “Over 58 perdent of the taxes go to K-12 school funding, so the voted changes there make a huge difference.”

Without a ballot issue, the property tax revenue of a taxing district such as a city or the county can only go up 1 percent each year, plus the tax resulting from new construction. In fact, most property tax bills in Pierce County actually decreased in 2019, Lonergan said. This year’s increase erases that reduction and takes them higher than previous (2018) levels.

Property owners who pay their taxes directly should have received a statement in the mail in mid-February. Owners whose taxes are paid out of mortgage accounts may look up their taxes online at The first-half payment is due no later than April 30, with the balance due by Nov. 2.

A change in state tax law this year affects seniors who own property. The maximum household income to qualify for a low-income senior or disabled exemption is now $45,708 in Pierce County and $58,423 in King County. The amounts vary from county to county statewide.

Application forms for the exemption and additional information, including eligibility requirements, are available from the Pierce County assessor-treasurer at 2401 S. 35th St. in Tacoma, and from the King County assessor at