The Spokesman-Review

Assessed values dropping

The overall taxable value of property in Kootenai County fell by $1.2 billion in 2008, the second straight year the county has experienced a decline.

On Tuesday, the county mailed 87,694 assessment notices that reflect property values as of Jan. 1. Assessor Mike McDowell said the region remains fortunate that it has not seen the steep declines reported in many areas of the country. McDowell characterized the decline in the county as a “market correction,” following the peak net taxable value of $16.5 billion reported in 2006.

“It’s bringing us back. We haven’t dropped clear off the top of the table. It’s bringing those average sale prices back within the reach of your working families in our community,” McDowell said. “It isn’t the bottom falling out of the market.”

The total taxable value for the county reported Tuesday was $14.8 billion, down from $15.9 billion last year and $16.5 billion the year before.

Just over the state line, Spokane County Assessor Ralph Baker said 204,000 notices of property evaluations would be mailed June 1. He expects angry property owners to start calling by June 3.

Across Spokane County, 48 percent of the valuations were down, 20 percent were up, and 32 percent stayed the same, Baker said. The largest increases were in Cheney, where values rose about 14 percent, and Airway Heights, where they rose 8 percent. The largest decreases were in Medical Lake, where they dropped 3.3 percent, and Liberty Lake, down 2.2 percent. Overall, the City of Spokane is up about one-half of 1 percent.

“Most of the county is within a percentage point” of last year, Baker said. “Here in Spokane, we have not seen a wholesale decline in home values.”

The evaluations are based on a formula that considers a value on Jan. 1, based on sales between March 2008 and March 2009. It uses sales, not listing prices, he said. Kootenai County analyzes sales that occurred in 2008 to establish values.

For the first time this year, Spokane County is listing comparable sales for some properties on its Web site. A property owner can enter the parcel number or address to get information about the property, and see as many as four properties within a square mile around it used in the comparison.

In Kootenai County, the decline in value – estimated at about 9 percent overall — varied by residential districts, with the biggest reductions seen in Hayden. Values dropped off in that city by an average of $36,900 per parcel, McDowell said. In Post Falls, Coeur d’Alene, and the county’s northern reaches, such as Athol and Spirit Lake, values dropped off by about $20,000 per parcel. The west side of Lake Coeur d’Alene saw average reductions of about $16,800 per parcel and the east side, about $14,300.

McDowell said values were more difficult to set because the sales upon which they are based were down significantly, from more than 3,000 in 2007 to about 2,151 last year.

In Kootenai County, homeowners also will see a decrease in their net taxable value resulting from an increase in their homeowner’s exemption — to $104,471 in 2009 from $100,938 the previous year. That means a homeowner with a house valued at $200,000 would pay taxes on $95,529.

As values decline, levy rates are expected to increase. However, that doesn’t necessarily result in higher tax bills. That depends more on whether the county’s various taxing districts increase their budgets, McDowell said. The assessor’s office encourages people to attend budget-setting hearings and lists the dates of each, along with contact numbers, on assessment notices.

“The budgets are still going to drive what the tax we all pay will be,” McDowell said.

Idaho property owners have until June 22 to appeal.

Contact Alison Boggs at alisonb@spokesman.com or (208) 765-7132; contact Jim Camden at jimc@spokesman.com or (509) 459-5461.


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