Spokane County property owners who want to know their 2023 tax bill now instead of waiting for it to arrive in the mail are in luck.
The Spokane County Assessor’s Office has created a property tax estimator tool and made it available online.
“It’s going to allow people to at least ballpark budget for next year,” Spokane County Assessor Tom Konis said.
Historically, county property owners get their valuation notices every summer, then have to wait until early the next year to learn what they owe in taxes.
That’s because the assessor’s office can’t calculate tax bills until late December. County staff can only set levy rates once they know every local government budget and every voter-approved fire district levy and bond issue.
The new tax estimator tool can’t predict with complete accuracy what a property owner’s bill will look like in early 2023.
“It really is an estimate because there are so many things involved that we don’t know at this point in time, this early,” Konis said, adding that he believes the estimator should be accurate within a few percentage points.
Konis said there are three caveats to keep in mind when looking at the property tax estimates.
First, they don’t include taxes that voters may approve before the end of the year. The estimator isn’t assuming that voters will approve any fire district levies on the November ballot, for instance.
Second, the estimator assumes that local governments will increase property taxes by 1%.
Cities and counties can increase their regular property tax collections by 1% every year. The vast majority of local governments consistently take the 1%, but it’s not mandatory. Spokane Valley hasn’t taken it for 13 years.
Third, the estimator only provides a dollar amount for ad valorem taxes – taxes based on the value of a property.
Other taxes, including those taken by weed control districts and soil conservation districts, aren’t included. Those taxes tend to make up a tiny fraction of a homeowner’s bill.
Konis said he got the idea for the property tax estimator about a month ago when Kootenai County Assessor Bela Kovacs told him Idaho has one.
“The lightbulb came on,” Konis said.
Idaho’s estimator is clunky and only provides taxpayers with some limited information, Konis said.
But Konis wondered if it might be possible to build a website giving taxpayers more thorough information so they could have a rough idea of their tax bill for the coming year.
He asked his levy specialists and the county information technology department if the concept was feasible. Building the website ended up taking a few weeks.
“They all put their maximum effort into getting this thing done,” Konis said.
Konis said to his knowledge, no Washington county has a comparable tax estimator tool.
“I think it’s going to be something really beneficial to people,” he said. “I’m just giddy about it.”