Citizens can weigh in on Enumclaw budget, property tax rate

Public hearings on the budget will be held Nov. 13 and Nov. 26.

Enumclaw citizens get their first crack at commenting on the city’s 2019 budget during a Nov. 13 session of the City Council.

As part of its long budget-crafting process, the council will host a public hearing during a meeting that begins at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 1339 Griffin Ave.

Also during the Nov. 13 meeting will be a public hearing on the city’s anticipated property tax levy for the coming year.

A second public hearing on both the tax levy and overall budget, along with final adoption of each, is planned for the council’s Nov. 26 gathering.

The citywide tax on property is something that has to be established each year and is subject to state-imposed limits. Years ago, cities and towns could bump the tax rate by 6 percent annually, but voters eventually reduced the allowable level to 1 percent, plus the value of new construction.

Arriving at a number is an involved process that can see rates drop while eventual assessments climb.

So, the beginning point in the tax calculation is the assessed value of all property within the city limits, a “market value” figure handed down by the King County Assessor’s Office. The city’s preliminary value for the coming year is a bit more than $1.5 billion or roughly $152 million greater than the figure for 2018. The estimated value of new construction during the past year is $45 million, thanks to a boom in new building that came with the end of the last recession.

Also playing a role in the city’s allowed assessment are tax rates connected to the local fire district and the King County Library System.

When everything is factored, the city is moving ahead with a proposed rate of $1.33 per $1,000 of assessed property value. That includes the allowable 1 percent increase and the new construction.

In real world terms, the $1.33 rate equals an annual tax bill of $532 on property assessed at $400,000. For 2018, the rate was $1.42 so, on the same $400,000 property, the tax bill was $568.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean tax bills will decrease. Property values are on the rise, which impacts the math. A lower rate, but increased assessment, can result in a greater tax burden.

CITY NOT ALONE IN ASSESSING PROPERTY TAX

Annual assessments are much greater that what Enumclaw collects, simply because the city isn’t the only one counting on property taxes to stay afloat.

In 2018, city property owners paid a total rate of $12.32; again, using $400,000 as an example of property value, the final property tax bill was $4,928.

How is that money distributed? The largest portion, a bit more than one-third of the total, is collected by the Enumclaw School District. The state takes about a quarter of the total sum for its school funding. Then comes the fire district, representing 12 percent of the total, followed by the city and King County. The library system’s share of the total is 3.34 percent of the total and collecting much smaller amounts are the Port of Seattle and services for emergency medical service, flood control and ferries.

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