Island County property valuation growth slumps

Island County property values, affected by the national slump in real estate, have increased far less than in the recent past.

Preliminary calculations show a 4.8 percent overall increase in real property value this year, said Island County Assessor Dave Mattens. The increase pales in comparison to last year’s average 15 percent increase and a staggering 35 percent jump in 2006.

“These numbers conform to the general market slowdown, bearing in mind that housing markets are always local,” Mattens said.

While most properties will see no changes in value this assessment cycle or even a slight decrease, some “high demand” properties will experience an increase.

Property owners will be receiving their valuation notices on time this year. Mattens and his crew in the assessor’s office have finished a long game of “catch up” that started when he took office.

Deviating from negative past precedents, the 2008 Change of Value Notices will be mailed today — right on time.

Notices went out last year 60 days earlier than the year before. The assessor’s office has bested itself again this year, shaving off an additional 65 days. Mattens was quick to credit his employees and the office’s “team effort.”

“I’m extremely proud of the work ethic and cooperation displayed by the entire staff,” the assessor said. “For all intents and purposes, this puts us back on the property tax schedule.”

The benefits of timely mailings extend beyond residents. The Board of Equalization is able to schedule appeals, and taxing districts have the luxury of planning their budgets more timely and effectively. The state also benefits by being able to complete school levy calculations.

The assessor’s office is required to physically inspect one-sixth of the county each year. Staff checked off the Coupeville area last year. This year the Freeland and Greenbank areas were scratched from the list. The areas around Langley and Clinton will be physically inspected next year.

In addition to physical inspections, the assessor’s office is required to annually and statistically update the value of all real property in the county.

“Property owners should expect to see their Change of Value Notices by the end of the week,” Mattens said. “In the meantime, appraisers are back in the field adding new construction to the rolls. We expect to be finished by August 31 with another mailing for new construction in September.”

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