The guess here is that few people actually enjoy paying taxes. As in very few. As in a number akin to those who hope to contract gout.
And while few people send in their tax bill or fill out a 1040 form with a song in their hearts, most of us willingly, but begrudgingly, do so for the betterment of our communities — even if we don’t fully understand how the tax system works. To that end, a recent article by Columbian reporter Jake Thomas was helpful in unraveling the mystery that can be found in property taxes.
As Clark County Assessor Peter Van Nortwick explained: “When the assessed values go up, the levy rate goes down. When the assessed value goes down, the levy rate goes up.” Got it? That part sounds simple, and the gist is that even though the county has increased its levy by 1 percent for the coming year, the tax on an individual property might decline if that property’s value represents a decreasing portion of total assessed value in the county. Or it might not; as we mentioned, it’s all very complicated.
Another instructive piece of information is that there are 45 taxing districts in Clark County, ranging from school districts to cities to port districts to other entities. For a home assessed at $279,100 — the county’s median sale price in 2016 — about $335 of property taxes went toward the county’s general fund, while thousands went to other taxing districts.
Through all of this, something tucked into the graphics that accompanied the story caught our eye. According to the Washington State Department of Revenue, the average rate for state and county property taxes has dropped precipitously over several decades. In 1973, state and county taxes were assessed at an average of $18.82 per $1,000 of assessed value; last year, the average was $11.47 per $1,000 of assessed value.