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Sept. 18, 2020

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New state law will alter property tax relief program

Assessor to evaluate law before mailing out notices

By , Columbian political reporter
Published:

Senior citizens who currently qualify for Clark County’s property tax exemption or deferral program will have to wait a few more months to receive their notice of property value while the county assessor’s office evaluates a new state law.

County Assessor Peter Van Nortwick said that his office mailed valuation notices last week to property owners in Clark County. The notices include information on the market value of their property as of Jan. 1, 2019, which is one factor used to calculate property taxes for 2020. But Van Nortwick said he held off on mailing notices to the 6,709 households in the senior or disabled program.

The program reduces property taxes for qualified seniors and disabled property owners whose household income is less than $40,000 annually. During the most recent legislative session, lawmakers passed Senate Bill 5160, which changes the program’s qualifying threshold from a flat income level to one based on median income. Clark County’s projected median household income for 2018 is $77,458, according to the state’s Office of Financial Management.

A county news release describes three income thresholds created by the new law to qualify for the exemption program.

• The first threshold is the greater of $30,000 or 45 percent of the median household income for the county.

• The second income threshold is the greater of $35,000 or 55 percent of the median household income for the county.

• The third threshold is the greater of $40,000 or 65 percent of the median household income for the county.

Under the new law, veterans can qualify for the exemption with a service-related disability evaluation of 80 percent or greater if they’re being paid at the 100 percent rate because they are unemployable due to their service-connected disability regardless of evaluation rating, according to the press release. The threshold for the deferral program is also changed to the greater of $45,000 or 75 percent of the median household income for the county.

The legislation passed overwhelmingly in the Legislature with support from Clark County’s legislative delegation. Van Nortwick said that his office was supportive of the change to state law because the flat income threshold didn’t reflect the varying cost of living across the state.

“We supported tying it to the median income because $40,000 is different than $40,000 in King County and different than Pacific County,” said Van Nortwick.

According to a county news release, this year’s taxes won’t be impacted by the new law and seniors who didn’t qualify under the old income levels won’t see a change this year. However, Van Nortwick said that in 2020 approximately 2,000 additional senior property owners may qualify for the tax relief program.

Van Nortwick said that those currently in the program will get their notice of value in September after final numbers are released by the state in August. During the fall, both Van Nortwick and Clark County Treasurer Alishia Topper will be doing outreach to senior citizens letting them know about the new thresholds and how to apply for property tax relief.

“This is a timely change for low-income seniors who are struggling with housing affordability, and my office is pleased to work with the Assessor’s Office to reach as many seniors as possible and inform them of the opportunity,” said Topper in a prepared statement.

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