What do county property taxes buy?

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For a breakdown of your property taxes, go to http://www.clark.wa.gov/treasurer/property/index.html. Enter your address. On the account summary, click "tax distribution." Property tax figures used in this story are only levy amounts, not the clean water and lighting fees that are added onto bills.

A property taxation equation

Press Talk: Examination of our taxing story

So we know what we pay in property taxes and where that money goes.

But what can those dollars buy?

My husband and I live in west Hazel Dell, and I wondered what taxing districts can get with our property tax dollars.

Knowing that two-thirds of the county’s general fund and roads diversion fund goes toward public safety, I asked Darin Rouhier, finance manager for the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, what his department can buy with $287.81.

One way to think about it: We sponsored a four-night stay for one inmate in the Clark County Jail.

For a breakdown of your property taxes, go to http://www.clark.wa.gov/treasurer/property/index.html. Enter your address. On the account summary, click “tax distribution.” Property tax figures used in this story are only levy amounts, not the clean water and lighting fees that are added onto bills.

A property taxation equation

Press Talk: Examination of our taxing story

Dawn Johnson, spokeswoman for Clark County Fire District 6, said the $76.51 we paid for the district’s Emergency Medical Services levy could pay for one tubing device that allows a paramedic to intubate a cardiac arrest or critical respiratory patient. On average, the district uses five a month.

As for the $232.86 we paid for the district’s general levy, that money could buy one firefighter’s helmet ($162) and a pair of protective leather gloves ($62.50).

About half of our property taxes go to schools.

We paid $392.83 to state schools, which goes toward K-12 ed

ucation statewide, and $288.43 to Vancouver Public Schools to help pay off construction bonds.

We also paid $543.30 for the district’s operating costs.

Steve Olsen, the district’s chief fiscal officer, said $543.30 could buy six days’ worth of paper at one high school.

At the Port of Vancouver, executive director Larry Paulson said our $23.62 that went to the port’s general fund could buy four railroad ties.

As for the $49.44 we paid to the Metropolitan Parks District, Bill Bjerke, operations superintendent, said that could pay for contracted security service to open and close the gates and restrooms daily at one park for a week. (Or buy 1¾ cases of toilet paper. But it doesn’t pay for opening the restrooms and the toilet paper).

For the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District, our $73.61 could buy five books, a magazine subscription and a DVD, said Sue Vanlaanen, communications director. The district buys items at up to 40 percent below retail due to volume discounts.

I didn’t bother asking what our $1.97 bought the Clark County Mosquito Control District, but did ask about the $302 we paid to the Clark County roads fund.

Jeff Mize, spokesman for Clark County Public Works, said the county purchases yellow paint for striping roads at $11.98 a gallon (pre-tax) in totes of 325 gallons.

About 15,900 gallons of paint has been used this year.

He said $302.33 would buy about 25 gallons of paint, enough to paint double-yellow center lines for eight-tenths of a mile.

That’s just the paint, Mize emphasized.

To pay someone to apply the paint, well, another property owner can pick up that tab.