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Property assessments provoke no ire

In August, many island homeowners were surprised to see a dramatic increase in their assessed property value despite a tumbling housing market.

Rises were the result of a thorough review of Bainbridge land values, according to the Kitsap County Assessor’s office. Those property valuation assessments are used as the basis of levied tax rates on landowners in Kitsap County.

However, according to the assessor’s office, the number of island residents who have contested those findings have been at or below average levels despite valuation jumps exceeding almost 25 percent in some individual cases.

Every six years, the assessor visits various Kitsap regions and evaluates individual properties based on a wide range of factor’s, including a home’s condition, environmental and scenic factors, and utility connections.

Last year, Bainbridge properties went under the microscope. Due to slumping property sales (which the assessor also uses as a base for calculating nearby property values), sample data for the 2007 year was increased from the usual calendar-year scope to include a period from Jan. 1, 2007 to March 1, 2008.

Since then, the Kitsap Board of Equalization, the organization that deals with challenges to property assessments, has received over 160 appeals from private residences and 40 appeals from corporate residences – just about average, according to Kitsap County Assessor Jim Avery.

Pat Lawson of the Board of Equalization, said that assessment appeals from Bainbridge account for roughly two-thirds of the total appeals the board has received this year from Kitsap residents. Nearly 30 appeals have already been settled, according to Avery.

One such Bainbridge appellant, who wished to remain anonymous, appealed a 12 percent increase on one of his land parcels and was rewarded with a 38 percent decrease in value, saving an estimated $1,700 in taxes. Other lots the owner controlled increased in value during the evaluation – those results were not contested.

“The way I’ve seen it, I’ve been getting a hell of a deal,” he said. “This was the year Bainbridge was reassessed so some people were unhappy with the increase. I still think my land is undervalued.

“Of course there is the risk if you challenge that they can raise your valuation, which isn’t always a bad thing.”

While increased property valuations can carry a higher tax burden, it can also translate into higher market value.

According to the assessor’s office, property value will likely rise at a steady 11 percent rate for the next six years until another thorough assessment is completed.

Despite the large increases on some properties, the average rise in land valuation on Bainbridge Island decreased slightly in 2008, according to Avery.

Appeals to the Board of Equalization regarding contested assessments were due by Sept. 12. Some appeals are still granted if there are extenuating circumstances regarding a property’s valuation.

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