Land values drive tax assessment

Staff from the King County Assessor’s Office and Board of Equalization (BOE) spoke with some 60 Islanders last week to discuss the new property tax assessments mailed out to Islanders on July 31.

The Assessor’s office lead by Lloyd Hara, an elected official, re-values 700,000 parcels of land county-wide each year. Of those, 16 percent or 112,000 parcels are physically inspected each year. This year, that amount included parcels on Mercer Island. The last time Island properties were inspected was 2008.

The Assessor’s office notes that land values county-wide have reached pre-recession levels. The 2014 total value of county properties is set at $340.6 billion, just under the $361 billion in 2008.

The median assessed value of residential parcels on Mercer Island increased from $1.043 million in 2013, to $1.158 million for this year, an increase in value of 11 percent. Yet it was clear that many of those attending the meeting were worried by the fact that the value of their own properties had increased much more than 11 percent.

Staff from the assessor’s office told Islanders that the primary driver of the appraisal process is the value of the land not the structure or improvements.

Hara and Neal Cook, who is the Clerk of the Board of Equalization, an independent body from the assessor’s office, told attendees up front, that challenges to the present valuations were welcome.

Property owners have a couple of different options to request a review, he explained. It can be done via mail or on-line. If people have questions regarding any part of the process, they were assured that they would be able to talk with a person on the telephone. Cook said that half of those who apply for review receive some level of adjustment to the assessed value of the property.

Islanders Pat Turner and Terry Hart, who attended the meeting, said that they were glad to hear about the extensive appeals process.

Yet Hart, whose property assessment increased over 20 percent this year felt that landowners in older neighborhoods where houses are being torn down for new homes are being penalized when the newer high-end homes are built. Both described some discomfort with some of the nuances of the assessment process such as what the physical inspection of properties did or did not include.

Taxpayers who believe the assessed value of their property exceeds its fair market value have the opportunity to appeal each year following receipt of the revaluation notice by filing a petition to the King County Board of Appeals/Equalization (BOE), an independent King County agency, within 60 days of the mailing date printed on the ‘Official Property Value Notice’ post card.

The assessor’s office stresses that just because a property’s assessed value is higher does not mean that an individual’s tax bill will increase  proportionately. The assessor’s office sets property values not taxes. The amount of your property tax bill is based upon the costs of state and local government. This includes the operating costs of schools, city and county, and of taxing districts such as hospital, fire and sewer districts. The assessed value of property is multiplied by the tax rate necessary in your levy area to calculate each taxpayers fair share of the total levied tax by these jurisdictions.

For more, visit the BOE website at or call 296-3496. Or contact the King County Property Tax Advisor at 263-9700.


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