Battle Ground residents can expect to receive some relief on their property tax bills next year, the result of increased property valuations throughout the county.
For the first time since 2009, residents will see a dip in the portion of their property tax bills that goes to the city. For homes with an assessed value of $200,000, the city's share will drop by $22, from $419 to $397. The city stresses these are estimates and it hasn't had its tax levy certified by the Clark County assessor yet. That won't happen until the end of the year.
Still, it's a positive sign for Battle Ground, which has its sights on 2014 as a turn-around year following the Great Recession.
"Things are on a slight upward trend," said City Councilman Adrian Cortes, who manages a family-owned real estate holding company.
In Battle Ground, last year's approved biennial budget authorized a 1 percent tax increase for both years. But the budget also came with an $11 million decrease. That decrease, coupled with the higher property valuations, is spurring the proposed drop in tax bills.
"The decrease doesn't mean we're going to collect less (money from the city)," county Assessor Peter Van Nortwick said. "We're going to collect whatever their budget is."
In the last year, the city's assessed value increased by 10 percent, according to the assessor's office.
Maggie Smith, Battle Ground's finance director, said she sees positive signs nationally that the real estate market is rebounding. The collapse in the real estate market was a driving force behind the recession.
During the recession, Battle Ground experienced the lowest real estate sales in a decade. While the housing market has slowly improved, it also experienced historic lows in 2011, the lowest year on record for collecting real estate excise taxes. Home values in Battle Ground hit a peak high in 2006 before dropping annually until this year, when they
started climbing again.
Cortes and other Battle Ground officials are particularly excited about the development of a $40 million, 154,000 square-foot Walmart that's taking shape a mile south of Main Street on Southwest Scotton Way at the Mill Creek Town Center retail complex. While the arrival of the world's biggest retailer isn't without its share of detractors, who have voiced concerns about whether they'll be able to compete with the megastore's "volume pricing" model, there are hopes the project will turn around the fortunes of the city of 18,130.
Cortes said he considers development of the Walmart a "triggering mechanism" for another big box retailer. The city is courting other retailers to build near the retail complex.
The city expects growth in the housing market will continue to bounce back this year, but it probably won't be at the levels seen between 2001 and 2003, which were historic highs. Low volumes and sale prices will continue to be a problem until employment improves in earnest, Smith said.