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Coming to your mailbox: a property tax bill

The annual ‘love letter’ from Kitsap County was mailed out Valentine’s Day.

How much do your local and county governments love you?

Let them count the ways.

Valentine’s Day brings with it the annual pink-enveloped love letter, a.k.a. your property tax bill, from the county treasurer’s office. And if you’re the owner of a home at Bainbridge Island’s median assessed valuation – that would be $443,245 this year – the county wants to be smothered with $4,355 smackeroos.

For the first time, the tax statement will include information on both assessed valuation and property taxes for the past two years, for comparison purposes.

“People always think that when their assessed valuation increases, their taxes follow,” said Barbara Stephenson, county treasurer. “This isn’t always the case. This year, some areas will see an increase due to the levies passed by voters.”

That’s true on Bainbridge Island, where the taxes on residential properites are increasing by an average of 7.7 percent over last year. That’s owing primarily to tax hikes by the Bainbridge Island Metropolitan Park and Recreation District and the Bainbridge Island Fire District.

Park board members took advantage of their recent change to “metropolitan” status to raise the district’s base property tax collection by 35 percent, after which it will be capped at a 1 percent increase each year. And island voters last year approved a six-year levy “lid lift” to pay for new fire trucks.

Other local governments will see little new revenue. The city’s property tax take is already capped by a 1 percent limitation, and the school district is in the middle of a previously established four-year levy.

County assessor Jim Avery said the new tax statements should help people better understand the relationship between property valuation and the tax rate. On Bainbridge Island, skyrocketing home prices drove up property valuations by an average of 19 percent last year, but new taxes are collected only as a function of increases approved by local agencies or the voters themselves.

“Nobody ever remembers what they paid last year,” Avery said. “Now they’ll see that maybe 7 percent isn’t too cool, but at least it isn’t the 19 percent that my valuation went up.”

Also for the first time, property owners will receive a statement even if their property taxes are paid through a mortgage company.

Property owners can pay their bill anytime before Oct. 31, although half the bill is due by April 30.

County officials also reminded seniors over age 61 and disabled people with an annual family income of less than $35,000 that they’re eligible for significant property tax exemptions. Information on those tax relief programs is available by calling Avery’s office at (360) 337-7160.

Kitsap County writer Charles Bermant contributed to this report.

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