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Rate Drops; Taxes Rise For Most Nearly 15 Percent Increase In Property Values Will Raise County Taxes Despite Lower Rate

Taxes will go up for most Spokane County property owners in 1995 despite a lower tax rate. Escalating property values are to blame.

County Assessor Charlene Cooney certified the 1995 tax rolls Tuesday.

Cooney also told county commissioners she is working vigorously to clear up nearly 1,600 disputed assessments that may jeopardize funding for cities, schools and fire districts.

The good news on taxes is that the average countywide tax rate fell to $14.87 per $1,000 assessed property value, down from last year’s $14.94 per $1,000.

That rate includes all local bonds and levies, including those of school and fire districts.

The bad news is that a nearly 15 percent increase in property values - from $13 billion last year to $15 billion this year - will drive up taxes despite the lower rate.

For example, a house assessed at $100,000 in 1994 would have been charged $1,494 in property taxes using last year’s average tax rate.

But using this year’s numbers, the same house would be valued at $115,000. Using that value and the new average tax rate, taxes on that house would be more than $1,700 this year.

Regarding the disputed assessments, Cooney told commissioners that nearly 300 have been resolved.

The others, mostly on commercial properties, will take more time to clear up, she said. Cooney wouldn’t say exactly how much more time would be needed.

Cooney said much of the problem was caused by massive changes in the way her office does business, including switching from a four-year assessment cycle to an annual cycle.

But she put part of the blame on the property owners, saying they have waited until the “11th hour” to give her appraisers information on their properties.

“It’s a waiting game now,” Cooney said.

If the county loses the appeals, assessments on those 1,600 properties could be lowered substantially. That would mean less property tax revenue for many local jurisdictions.

Some have estimated the loss at $1 million. But Cooney said she doesn’t think it will be that much.

“We stand by our assessments,” she said.