Enumclaw property values dip again, tax bill decreases

Perhaps it’s the result of cosmic irony or maybe it’s simply King County’s way of showing a bit of taxpayer love – in either case, property tax statements generally flood regional mailboxes right around Valentines Day.

Again this year, King County Assessor Lloyd Hara spent the better part of a day in Enumclaw, speaking at the senior center and visiting with select city constituents before dropping by The Courier-Herald to explain this year’s tax scenario.

“In general, south King County has lost more value than those areas closer to the core job centers,” Hara said.

For city taxpayers, the bottom line consists of three elements: property values in the Enumclaw city limits have dropped for the fourth straight year; property tax rates continue to climb; and, after doing all the math, the total tax bill has increased a bit in 2012.

Hara’s numbers show Enumclaw properties averaged $233,900 in 2010, slid to $227,400 a year ago and are now pegged at $207,000. Assessments consider both physical structures, whether residential or commercial, and the land they sit on.

When property values decline, the typical effect is an increase in tax rates. Individual taxing districts bump their rates in an attempt to collect the same amount of money, or slightly more, despite lower assessments.

Enumclaw residents will be paying less in 2012 than in 2011, Hara said, due to the swoon in property values. Last year, the average city property owner paid a combined tax rate of $11.49 and received a tax bill of $2,597. For 2012, he said, the combined rate is $12.18, but produces an annual property tax bill of $2,521.

That means $76 more in the pocket of the average Enumclaw property owner.

A breakdown of an individual tax bill shows an Enumclaw resident’s total tax bill is split among 14 entities.

More than one-half of property tax dollars go to public education, collected by both the state and the local school district. There are a variety of King County taxing districts collecting money for everything from flood prevention to ferries.

The portion identified for the city of Enumclaw decreased this year and members of the City Council followed through on a promise to drop the tax rate because of annexation into Fire District 28. The net result was greater taxes paid for fire protection and emergency medical services, as the city rate declined by about 83 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, while District 28 assesses at a bit more than $1.09.

Hara acknowledged there are two factors looming that could cause a spike in local tax rates. First, District 28 commissioners are working toward putting a measure on the spring ballot that would bump the collection rate to $1.50.

Second, the city has been looking at getting out of the library businesses, favoring an annexation into the King County Library System. Such a move would require voter approval. If annexation occurred, the independent library system would begin assessing city residents at its current rate of 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.

If the fire district’s increase comes about, and library annexation occurs, those additional collections would begin in January 2013.

Added note: since this article first appeared, the fire district has announced it will not be seeking a tax increase on a spring ballot.

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