Whatcom County – Why Did Your Property Assessment Go Down And Your Property Tax Went Up

This past week 96,000 property owners received new property assessments and tax bills. Believe me, I got a lot of calls. Most of my clients found that the assessed value of their properties went down yet their property tax increased by about 10%.

We all are happy when the assessed value goes down because usually the taxes go with them, so what happened?

Several things. According to Keith Willnauer, our assessor for 23 years, the reason for the tax increase is primarily due to three factors. The first is that the county changed from 50 years of assessing one quarter of the county each year, so each property was assessed only once every 4th year. Now with yearly valuation, it equalizes the tax burden.

Say for example your property was assessed 4 years ago in 2007. That was basically the top of the market, so that year your house taxes doubled, because you are carrying the bulk of the burden with your new high assessment. So this year with everyone re-assessed, the value of those high properties came into line and their overburden is now spread out among all of us, raising our taxes a little.

Next is the state school levy. This is divided between all the counties in Washington state. Unfortunately for us, this year the divisions were re-evaluated and Whatcom county was given a bigger burden, raising our taxes a little more.

Lastly is the Bellingham school levy for maintenance and operations that we, the voters, agreed to. People living within the Bellingham School District saw the biggest increase of all.

In talking to my clients, I learned that, in Bellingham, the average tax increase is somewhere around $600-$800 per year.

It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but sadly all the fees are legit. The assessor’s office gets lots of angry call at times like this but just remember – they are the messengers. Mostly, we voted the increases in.

Whenever a new tax is put in front of the voters, they present it as pennies per $1000 of property value and it seems really small. Next time, do the math and see what it really means to you before you vote.