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Island valuations spiraling upwards

The bad news for property taxpayers is that Bainbridge Island property-value assessments continue to soar.

But there is good news as well.

First, on-the-spot physical inspections – which happen only once every six years – didn’t hike local assessments any more than usual. Second, the rest of Kitsap County showed unusually large increases.

The assessor’s office still can’t keep pace with actual Bainbridge valuations. And finally – for better or worse – voter-mandated property-tax limitations will put a lid on the tax bills.

“Most of the districts will be limited to 1 percent revenue increases next year,” Kitsap County Assessor Jim Avery said. “So the levy rates will have to come down significantly.”

Assessment notices went into the mail this week, and should start arriving as early as today.

They will show typical increases for most of Bainbridge Island in the 12-16 percent range. But in the Winslow and Fletcher Bay areas, increases will only be 3 to 6 percent, below the countywide average increase of 7.5 percent.

As Avery acknowledges, assessed value and market value are two different things, especially on Bainbridge.

“Generally, we try to assess at 90 to 92 percent of market value,” he said. “It’s not an exact science – the standard deviation is probably about 10 percent – and we’d rather be on the low side than the high side.”

When a property is sold, the assessor’s office compares the sales price to the assessed price. While the average sale price is almost always above the average assessed value, the gap varies over time and by area.

On Bainbridge, the gap has been as low as 15 percent over the past year, and as high as 30 percent, indicating that assessments are generally conservative.

“It’s always a problem,” Avery said. “Bainbridge people are getting something of a break, because it’s hard to keep up.”

Annual reassessments are done by comparing actual sales prices with assessed values, and making adjustments – almost always upwards – to bring those numbers into closer correspondence.

This year, though, Bainbridge was one of the areas subjected to an on-site, physical inspection.

“We sometimes find unique properties, particularly on the waterfront, where there aren’t too many sales,” Avery said. “But there really wasn’t too much difference between the results this year with the physical inspections and the normal adjustments.”

Not a tax hike

Increases in assessed value do not translate directly into increased property taxes.

The total assessed value of a taxing district – real property on Bainbridge Island is now worth $3.199 billion – is divided into the amount the district will raise through property taxes to come up with a tax rate, which is then levied on the individual valuation of each property.

If all properties in a district such as the city increased in assessed value by the same amount, and if that district’s budget did not change, then property taxes would stay the same despite the change in individual valuations.

What makes individual property taxes rise is increases in district budgets or increases in assessed valuation greater than the average for the district.

This year, though, taxing districts like the city, the county and the fire district are limited to 1 percent increases in revenue, meaning that any property with an average valuation increase should see only a 1 percent increase in its tax bill.

What confounds matters, though, is that every property is in a number of different districts – school districts, cities, counties and a statewide district for the state’s share of property taxes.

And that’s why the valuation increase in the rest of Kitsap County is good news for Bainbridge property owners – islanders will pay a slightly smaller proportion of county property taxes than in previous years.

“The area that was really solid was Bremerton, which had been lagging,” Avery said, noting average increases of between 5 and 12 percent. “That’s good news for all of Kitsap County.”

The revaluations released this week represent the assessor’s determination of market value as of Jan 1, but will be the basis for property tax distribution throughout the county next year.

A breakdown of the revaluation, by the areas within the county, is as follows:

• Residences in the Sunnyslope, Gorst, Parkview Terrace and Land Summit neighborhoods in South Kitsap generally didn’t experience any changes in property values, while the value of homes in all other areas of South Kitsap generally increased from 3 to 6 percent;

• The value of homes in Central Kitsap typically increased by 5 to 8 percent;

• No changes were generally recorded in the home values within the North Kitsap communities of Poulsbo and Gamblewood, but residences in all other North neighborhoods generally increased between 6 to 9 percent;

• The Bremerton neighborhoods with the biggest increases in home valuations are the Manette and Kitsap Lake communities, which typically saw increases of between 9 and 12 percent. Meanwhile, homes in the East Bremerton neighborhood, excluding Manette, saw typical value increases of between 5 and 8 percent and the value of homes in the West Bremerton community generally increased between 5 and 8 percent.

For more information, see www.kitsapgov.com/assr.

Staff Writer Amy Crumley contributed to this report.

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Tax appeal

Residents who disagree with the assessed value of their property have 60 days – up from 30 – to file an appeal. Petitions are reviewed by a three-member County Board of Equalization.

But before filing a formal appeal, residents should contact the Assessor’s Office to make sure the characteristics of their property are accurately recorded in the county database.

For more information about the petitions or exemptions, call the assessor’s office at (360) 337-7160 for more information. A local courthouse line for Bainbridge Island is 842-2061.

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