About 93% of Spokane County residents will pay more property taxes than they did last year as several new levies from schools and the library system go into effect.
The county treasurer’s office will collect $658 million in property taxes this year, about $79 million more than last year.
Spokane County Assessor Tom Konis said a small part includes increases in assessed value, but much of it is new taxes voters imposed on themselves as well as changes in how the state funds education due to state Supreme Court-mandated reforms.
Some 38% of taxpayers’ total bills are from levies or ballot resolutions from schools, library districts, fire districts and other local governments. Voters do not have direct control over many of the other taxes on an average property tax bill, such as taxes from the state, the county or the city.
The biggest tax increases will affect those living in the West Valley School District, which voted to increase its levy from $1.50 to $2.50 last year.
Voters in other parts of the county, including in the Cheney School District, also voted to increase, renew or pass new levies, but those will result in smaller increases.
Only a few areas around Rockford, Latah and Waverly south of Spokane, as well as the area surrounding Deer Park’s city limits, will avoid property tax increases this year. Everywhere else will see a range of increases.
City and county property taxes are much more stable over time because state law only allows them to increase property taxes by a maximum of1% a year without voter approval. But cities are allowed to ask voters for bigger increases, as the city of Spokane did last year to pay for more police officers and firefighters.
School districts have seen far larger swings in how much they are allowed to collect after several changes at the state level due to the McCleary decision, a court ruling that found the state had underfunded education.
Last year, about 83% of Spokane residents paid less in taxes.
County Treasurer Michael Baumgartner, who is also a former state senator, said those who have sticker shock regarding their tax bills should consider what elections they may have voted in, and how that could have affected what they pay in taxes.
“If you’re not happy with your tax bill, think what role did you play in creating it either by directly voting for an initiative or who you voted to send to office,” he said. “Ultimately, we’re a representative democracy, and it’s the people’s government and they should be as educated as they can be and understand what they’re voting for and decide whether they’re getting value.”
The Legislature allowed school districts to collect more from taxpayers after schools said they needed more to operate. Baumgartner cited the negotiated pay raises for staff as a need for more education money, and schools say they need additional funding to cover essential staff the state doesn’t pay for, such as additional nurses and councilors.
Konis said many Spokane County residents will likely see an increase again, depending on where they live in the county. This year Central Valley School District and East Valley both had ballot measures pass, and some schools in the area may need to ask for additional levies next year.
Property tax bills have already been mailed out to Spokane County residents, and the first half of payments are due by April 30.
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