Black Diamond weighing budget, property tax

Public comment periods are set for Nov. 21 and Dec. 2.

As Black Diamond’s city officials and elected leaders prepare a spending plan for the coming year, there are several key elements that may hold public interest.

Among those are two crucial dates – Nov. 21 and Dec. 2 – in the budgeting process. Those are the evenings when the public has a chance to weigh in on city spending proposals. Public hearings will be conducted both nights on the overall budget and a hearing on the proposed property tax is set for the 21st.

That’s all in preparation for Dec. 5, when members of the Black Diamond City Council are scheduled to make a final vote on the 2020 budget.

A starting point in setting a property tax is the overall assessed value of the city, a number passed down from Seattle and the office of the King County assessor. The current value was judged to be slightly more than $1 billion.

City Finance Director May Miller notes this is the first time the city has topped the billion-dollar mark. A further sign of the city’s building boom, she said, is that the city’s assessed value has doubled since 2013.

In setting property tax collections, municipalities are limited by state law. Annual collections can increase no more than 1 percent over the year prior. Municipalities are not required to implement the 1 percent increase but most, including Black Diamond, do. It wasn’t too many years ago that the lid was 6 percent; the state’s voters, however, changed that.

When all the numbers are crunched, Miller said, the city is looking at a 2020 property tax rate of $1.87 per $1,000 of assessed value (building and land). The current figure is $1.90, meaning a lesser rate for the coming 12 months.

That can be offset, though, when property values jump year over year. Property owners everywhere, not just Black Diamond, can see a decreased tax rate but higher tax bill.

King County has figured the average assessment in Black Diamond to be $386,000. That means a city tax bill of nearly $722 next year; the bill on the same property this year is roughly $733.

When paying property taxes (whether as a lump sum or monthly as part of a mortgage payment), city residents are impacted by multiple entities. Aside from the city share, Black Diamond property owners pay into the state’s public schools, the Enumclaw School District, the King County Library System, among others. There are also tax levies for things like emergency medical services, flood control and ferries.

Miller said the total, after all taxing entities collect their share of the pie, is a rate of $9.45. So the total bill, on that average property valued at $386,000, is about $3,648 annually.

One element of the property tax puzzle not being addressed is the city’s relationship with Mountain View Fire and Rescue. The two sides are at odds over the city’s contribution for fire and EMS protection. Black Diamond residents are not part of the district; rather, the city contracts for services.

The district has made it clear the believe Black Diamond residents pay far less than others in the Mountain View district, a situation the district would like rectified. The city remains adamant that additional money isn’t available.

Miller said generating additional dollars would require a formal “lid lift,” a process that would allow greater taxation. That type of move, she said, is at least a year away, perhaps two.

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