Opinion

Still vexed by that tax bill?

Our attempt to explain the finer points of local

property taxes – probably a fool’s errand – in this space Wednesday may have obscured as much as it enlightened. Not long after the paper hit the newsstand, we received this note:

“Thank you for addressing a question nagging me: Why are my taxes going up 12 percent this year, when we have a property tax lid of 1 percent? I’m still mystified, though -- your answers aren’t explaining what I’m seeing on my tax bill. Yes, fire & Park & Rec got the biggest increases -- 18 percent and 40 percent, respectively, for us. However, all the other areas (state, county, city, etc.) are showing a 7-10 percent increase on my statement. So, if overall, there’s only a 1 percent increase in taxes (you say in your article, even on Bainbridge Island, city revenues are only going up 1 percent), then I’m picking up a greater share from my neighbors, correct? So is someone else’s property tax going DOWN? That would be the logical assumption. I’m having trouble believing that anyone’s assessed values, or city, county or state taxes, fell this year.

“If I am assuming a greater share of the island’s taxes, why me? I’d be interested to learn what groups of people are taking on a larger share -- in the form of some demographics from the assessor’s office. For example, are waterfront owners, new home owners, folks in Winslow paying proportionally more? I am confounded at how this all works -- and why the city isn’t swimming in tax revenues.”

– Mrs. K, Fletcher Bay

Good questions, all. So we referred the query to Jim Avery, ever-helpful county assessor, who looked up our correspondent’s tax bill and offered these insights into property valuation and why some households are paying more than the “advertised” island-wide property tax increase:

“Mrs. K’s total tax bill increased by 11.8 percent, slightly higher than our advertised increase for single family residences on Bainbridge Island of 7.7 percent. The reason for the higher tax bill is that she is in one of two Bainbridge neighborhoods (West Waterfront and East Waterfront) that saw higher assessed-valuation increases than the rest of the island. The standard adjustment factors for Bainbridge properties last year (for 2006 taxes) was plus-10 percent to land and plus-25 percent to dwellings. The two waterfront neighborhoods mentioned above saw a plus-25 percent to land and a plus-25 percent to dwellings.

“Mrs. K is exactly correct. She and others in these two neighborhoods did pick up a larger share of both the countywide and Bainbridge tax burden. The county average assessed valuation increase was 20 percent, while her property increased by 23.8 percent.

“Mrs. K asks who pays less if she’s paying more. The answer is, everyone who saw increases less than her 23.8 percent increase in assessed value. In other words, the average tax increase for single family residences on Bainbridge would have been very slightly higher than 7.7 percent mentioned above, had it not been for the larger increases in these two waterfront neighborhoods.

“One thing that folks like Mrs. K, who see larger-than-normal increases, need to consider is that more likely than not, the higher increase this year suggests that they may have been undervalued in previous years and therefore would have paid less proportionately than their neighbors. There is always going to be a bit of tax shifting each year, but I’m pleased that at least in the last few years we have been able to apply increases of about the same magnitude throughout the county, which does minimize the tax shifting.”

– Jim Avery, county assessor

Not sure that will take the sting out of writing the check, but we did our best.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus

Read the latest Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Aug 22 edition online now. Browse the archives.