Despite a poor economy, voters in many South Sound communities agreed last year to tax themselves for school operations, for capital projects, for parks and recreation, for fire services.
This week, those bills begin coming due.
Tax statements for 2011 will be going out beginning Tuesday for more than 330,000 properties in Pierce County, according to the Assessor-Treasurer’s office.
Though average residential assessed values went down about 10.5 percent across the county last year, homeowners in some areas should prepare for sticker shock.
Some examples calculated using a home assessed at $200,000 for simplicity’s sake:
Tacoma: Tax bill up $250, due in part to a school construction and technology levy and increased funding for Metro Parks, both approved at the polls.
Milton: Tax bill up $301. Voters said yes to a new tax to pay for expanded fire and emergency services, including paramedics.
Buckley: Tax bill up $226. A new fire station is in the works after voter approval.
The same house might have been assessed at around $223,500 in 2009 for 2011 taxes. Overall, assessed property values dropped about 10.5 percent across the county last year.
But while your value may have been higher a year ago, your tax was lower. That’s because the tax rate per $1,000 of assessed valuation – the figure on which your total bill is calculated – went up.
There are lots of reasons why your bill goes up. Taxes are calculated using formulas involving overall property values and rates within taxing districts.
One popular chart the assessor’s office produces uses averages, showing single-family home figures for year-to-year assessed values and taxes, along with tax rates and the percent change in taxes.
It’s got eye-popping numbers like a 28 percent year-over-year increase in the average tax in Milton; 21 percent in Fife; 15 percent in Ruston. And it shows factoids like:
Lowest average tax bill in the county: $1,963 in Pacific.
Highest average tax bill in the county: $4,450 in University Place.
But likely what really matters to you is what your tax bill looks like and why. And you’re probably paying taxes to agencies you hadn’t even thought you were helping to fund.
If you live in the heart of Tacoma, for example, your 2011 tax rate went up $2.63 this year: from $11.82 to $14.45 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. If you multiply that $14.45 times every $1,000 of your assessment, you get your total property tax bill for the year. Actually, the assessor’s office does the work for you.
So what are you paying for? Your money goes to the state, to the city, to Pierce County, to the Tacoma School District, to Metro Parks, to a parkland fund and to the Port of Tacoma, in varying slices.
If you look at all property taxes assessed in the county in pie-chart form, local schools get the biggest piece – 39.41 percent.
Overall, the county expects to collect just over $1 billion in property taxes this year; $476 million of that – about 45 percent – was approved by voters, according to the assessor’s office.
Kris Sherman: 253-597-8659
Can’t wait to see your bill?
2011 property-tax figures are available now on the Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer’s website. Here’s how to view yours.
Go to www.co.pierce.wa.us/assessor or keyword Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer and call up the web page.
Click on “Parcel search” in the top left hand corner.
You can search by parcel number, if you know it, or using a street address.
Click on the blue parcel number when you get your search result.
Click on the Taxes/Values tab on the next screen. You’ll see your assessed value and taxes levied for each year going back to 2006. To get a breakout of the rate per $1,000 of assessed valuation you’re paying to each taxing district, click on the blue numbers in the Tax Code Areas table on the right-hand side of the page. You can compare from year to year with that list, too.