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Monday, November 18, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Most Spokane County property owners will pay less in taxes this year as school funding changes

This aerial photo shows the Spokane County Courthouse on Oct. 26, 2013, in front of the Public Safety Building and the Spokane County Jail. Spokane police say an intern in the city prosecutor’s office was assaulted Tuesday morning in a women’s restroom in the Public Safety Building. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
This aerial photo shows the Spokane County Courthouse on Oct. 26, 2013, in front of the Public Safety Building and the Spokane County Jail. Spokane police say an intern in the city prosecutor’s office was assaulted Tuesday morning in a women’s restroom in the Public Safety Building. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Four out of five property owners in Spokane County are in for a treat when their tax bills show up in the coming days.

Thanks in part to changes made at the state level on funding for public education, 83 percent of property owners will pay less this year in taxes than they did in 2018, the Spokane County treasurer’s and assessor’s offices reported Tuesday.

Those in the minority who will see bigger tax bills likely improved their lots, leading to an increase in value beyond the break approved by state legislators, Spokane County Assessor Tom Konis said.

“We looked at quite a few of them, and all of them that we found were because of new construction,” Konis said of the properties that will see increased taxes this year.

Property taxes for most residents will fall despite the recent approval of some big-ticket levy increases around the county in the past few months. Spokane Public Schools pitched its nearly $495 million bond measure, approved by 69 percent of the voters last fall, as a net savings in taxes because of a decrease in the share of local taxes paying for school operations.

That money will instead largely come from a portion of property taxes that are paid into the state’s General Fund and distributed to school districts throughout Washington. While some taxpayers in some Western Washington counties will receive a net tax increase to pay for schools this year under the new plan intended to equitably increase funding for schools to meet a state Supreme Court mandate, Spokane County residents will be getting a tax break.

Other taxes that have been approved recently by voters, including an increase in the maintenance and operations levy for the Spokane Valley Fire Department and an additional amount approved by Spokane residents to pay for police and firefighters, are set to take effect next year. On top of that, local taxpayers’ share of the payment to the state for schools is also scheduled to increase in 2020, and could increase again starting in 2022.

“Given Olympia’s propensity to spend money, and the fact that Democrats have large majorities, it’s very likely the tax rates will go up in the future,” said Spokane County Treasurer Michael Baumgartner, a former Republican state senator who was critical of the judicial opinion prompting a change to state funding of education and Democratic-backed efforts to address the shortfall.

The decrease this year in property tax bills is not unexpected. Tax assessments jumped 10 percent in 2018 across Spokane County, as the new system for funding public schools through collections into the state’s General Fund took effect without the decrease in the amount collected by the local school district. That reduction, which totals $2.30 per $1,000 of assessed property value for taxpayers living within the boundaries of Spokane Public Schools and $1.70 per $1,000 of assessed property value in the Central Valley School District, makes up the bulk of the savings most local taxpayers will see.

Tax notices will begin to show up in mailboxes this week throughout Spokane County. Payments can be made in two installments, with the first payment due April 30 and the second due Oct. 31. The county accepts partial payment of property taxes if the bill is a hardship. Those interested should contact the Spokane County Treasurer’s Office at (509) 477-4713.

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