Assessor: County home values on rise

But many residents will not see a jump in taxes owed

By Erik Hidle, Columbian staff writer

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Your value is on the rise Clark County.

After five years of seeing the valuation of homes drop county wide, Clark County Assessor Peter Van Nortwick says the valuation of most homes in the county is expected to jump about 10 to 15 percent this year.

And no, he warns, that does not mean your taxes will necessarily go up as a result.

"This is a good thing, and it definitely means housing

values are rebounding," Van Nortwick said. "But the bottom line for a lot of people is to understand that just because the assessed value of their homes goes up, that doesn't mean the taxes go up, as well."

Perhaps the best way to explain it is that in a budget-based system, when values go up, rates go down.

The long form explanation is that the formula for determining levy rates in Washington divides a taxing district's budget into the total assessed value of property.

Van Nortwick said that means when property value increases, most levy rates decrease, resulting in many paying a similar amount of property taxes.

But note the word "many."

"For some districts, they will pay more," Van Nortwick said, "But that is because the levy rates were at its statutory limit."

Van Nortwick said, "many taxing districts have a statutory limit on the levy rate. When a district's levy rate hits its statutory limit, they can't collect any additional funds, even if it is below the district's highest lawful budget."

For example, Van Nortwick said, "a district's highest lawful budget could require a levy rate at $3 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. But if the statutory limit for the district is set at $2.50 per $1,000 valuation, the tax district may not be able to collect the highest lawful levy."

But, with values on the rise, the districts can now make up the lost ground.

"For every $1,000 that values go up, most districts get to add their statutory levy limit to the budget up to their lawful limit," Van Nortwick said. "The key is the highest lawful budgets were getting shorted because of the statutory levy limits."

Van Nortwick said among the districts that can expect a return in lost revenues are fire protection districts and the county's metropolitan parks district.

Van Nortwick said he doesn't yet have the final report on what the new value of the county will be. His office is still crunching the numbers on that front.

But he does believe the final price tag of the county will be known sometime in June when folks are noticed of their new property valuations.

Still, the one thing he says for sure, is that the value of the county is finally on the rise after years of tumbling down.

The upward trend isn't an atypical jump according Linda Latto, the chief deputy assessor.

"It is very much in line with the Portland area," Latto said. "And economically it's a good thing. … It will be a very nice relief for several of the districts."

Erik Hidle: 360-735-4547; http://twitter.com/col_clarkgov; erik.hidle@columbian.com.