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Island County property values plummet; some tax rates to rise

The total assessed value of Island County plummeted by 12.3 percent for the tax year 2011, county Assessor Dave Mattens announced Thursday.

Mattens said his staff completed the calculations this week and the results showed that the total assessed value fell from $14.6 billion for the 2010 tax year to $12.8 billion for next year. He plans to mail out individual change of value notices to property owners next Tuesday.

Mattens said he sees the drop in value as a correction after the 35 percent increase from 2006 to 2007.

“What we saw was a bubble,” he said. “When you graph it, it’s amazing the spike that occurred.”

Mattens stressed that the 12.3 percent decrease is the total amount for the county and individual property owners may see something different in their change of value notices. The value of some properties actually increased.

“It’s all about location, location, location,” he said.

The decrease in the county’s total assessed value means that property tax rates will have to go up to compensate. That doesn’t necessarily mean property owners will pay more or less in property taxes. As Mattens explained, the county and taxing districts will collect the same amount whether the rate goes up or down.

A person’s property taxes depends on their individual property. Mattens said a rough rule of thumb is that those people who see the value of their property decrease by the same percentage as the overall county, which is 12.3 percent, likely won’t see any change in property taxes. The taxes on a property that didn’t change in value at all or increased would likely be taxed more, while a property with a drop in value of more than 12.3 percent will probably see a decrease in taxes.

The 12.3 percent decrease is actually good news for county commissioners. The numbers the commissioners used in a proposed increase of the property tax levy, which will be on the primary ballot, were based on a guess about the change in the county’s overall assessed value. The commissioners had to submit a proposed levy rate, not knowing what it would raise because they didn’t know the total assessed value.

Since the Assessor’s Office hadn’t calculated the value by the deadline for the ballot measure, Mattens offered the commissioners an educated guess of 12 percent.

“We really did nail it,” he said. “It was spot on. For it to come so close, I was just shocked.”

In the resolution for the levy increase, the commissioners assumed the county’s total assessed value would decrease by 12 percent and that the county’s regular property tax levy rate would have to be increased from $0.51 per $1,000 of assessed value to $0.59 per $1,000 to raise the same regular levy amount next year, plus the 1 percent limit factor. Based on this assumption, the proposition states that the property tax levy rate would be $0.75 per $1,000 next year if the voters pass the $0.16 increase.

If the total value had dropped by more than 12 percent, then the proposed levy lift wouldn’t have raised the additional $2 million the commissioners are counting on to sustain the current expense budget.

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