News

Property tax take increases

Island County is projecting to collect nearly $73 million in property taxes this year, up $3.1 million from the amount collected last year.

While more money will be collected, the average tax rate for Island County property owners is dropping 61 cents to $9.23 per $1,000 of assessed value, according to information released Monday by Island County Assessor Tom Baenen.

Oak Harbor residents are seeing a 9.7 percent decrease in their property tax rates while Coupeville residents will see a 2.8 percent decrease in their property tax rate.

Lower tax rates don’t mean you’ll be paying less in taxes, however. Valuations have increased, more than offsetting the rate reduction.

In Oak Harbor School District, for example, assessed property valuations went up 14.5 percent in the last year.

Baenen said that the lower tax rates generally stem from local taxing districts asking for less money, combined with tax income from new construction and increased property valuations.

Next to San Juan County, Island County has the lowest average tax rate in the state.

Island County saw an $800 million increase in assessed property value to $7.8 billion for 2004. Baenen said that figure is 11 percent higher than last year.

New construction added more than $156 million to the assessed valuation countywide and should raise approximately $1.5 million in revenue.

“It’s obvious how important the building industry is to Island County,” Baenen said during Monday’s meeting of the Island County commissioners.

He also provided information on where property owners’ tax money end up.

More than half (56 percent) of property tax payments goes to schools. Local schools receives 27 percent of the property taxes while the State School Levy receives more than 29 percent of property taxes.

The remaining money is divvied up among other taxing districts, including libraries, hospital, cities, parks, ports, fire districts, and Island County.

Baenen pointed out that the county commissioners have authority over the County Road levy, County Current Expense levy and the Conservation Futures Fund. Those funds account for nearly 18 percent of the county’s property taxes.

Baenen stressed that the tax dispersal shows how important it is for residents to participate in local governments — especially if they want a say in how public money is spent.

With the county’s tax rate set, Island County Treasurer Linda Riffe can start mailing property tax statements, a process that should begin this week.

You can reach News-Times reporter Nathan Whalen at nwhalen@whidbeynewstimes.com.

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