In a previous column, “A Piece of the Pie,” I talked about our revenue pie (sales tax, property tax and levy revenue). I also explained what makes up the property tax pie and all the “ingredients” that determine the makeup of that pie: levies for schools, the state, fire, the county, cities and towns, roads, libraries and park districts. This column is about property valuation, which determines the size of the property pie.
Our property tax is determined first and foremost on the valuation of your property. You probably have just received your property valuation. Recently, Assessor Treasurer Mike Lonergan came to our Council meeting on June 21 to explain why (watch here on PCTV at http://tinyurl.com/jz5lazo). You can contact Mike at (253) 798-6111 or on the web at www.co.pierce.wa.us/atr.
I am going to attempt to share with you what was said. What you will see on your card is a valuation of your property for this year. The Assessor will use this information to calculate your fair share of next year’s property tax, used for many government services. This card is not a tax bill. An increase in valuation does not result in a corresponding increase in your tax bill, although it does factor into the calculation. Your tax will depend largely on voted taxes in the school, fire and park districts of your area. The County’s property tax revenue not only comes from residential property tax, but also commercial property and any new construction, both residential and commercial. The card you have received in not about your specific property tax, but about how much your property is worth. Valuations are calculated yearly based on on-site visits in one sixth of the county, real estate sales in the area and like neighborhoods, and trends in real estate sales. From this information, valuation across the County increased 8 ½ percent. However, in order to provide equalization across the State, Pierce County was required by State law to increase the valuation by 2 percent. So the total average increase in valuation is approximately 10 percent. This is a significant growth factor and one that is being seen across the State.
On your card you will see the valuation of your property. You can also check the web site, www.co.pierce.wa.us/atr, click on “Property Tax & Value” and enter your parcel number or address. Hopefully it will be good news. If you disagree, there is an appeal process and that information is also on the Assessor’s web page. An appeal must be filed by Aug. 22, 2016.
The good news for Pierce County is that valuation has been increasing since 2012, evidence that the economy is improving. In 2008, the cost of properties was depressed, good news for buyers but not for sellers. Now you will be able to get fair market value for your property. This year’s valuation of residential properties is $86 billion, compared to $69.1 billion in 2012. This increase results in growing our “pie.” Depending on the amount, it may result in governments ability to hire more teachers, to clean up our parks, to hire more cops and pave more roads. Citizens determine what is in the pie i.e. schools, parks, port operations, general government (police fire, sewers, roads, etc). It also means that your property is worth more. That investment you made when you bought your home is starting to be back to paying off. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that this is truly a sign that the Great Recession is receding!