News

Bummer of a bill

by AMANDA WINTERS
Sequim Gazette

Property values in Clallam County decreased by more than $1 billion over the course of three years while property taxes increased by $6.5 million.

 

After reaching an all-time high of $8.6 billion in 2008, property values fell sharply last year to $7.5 billion, according to the Clallam County Assessor’s annual report.

 

Clallam County commissioners received the report at their Feb. 6 work session.

 

“It’s a very hard thing to grasp,” Commissioner Jim McEntire said of the rising taxes and falling values. “It’s counterintuitive for the tax bill to go up when property values decline.”

 

In a report, Clallam County Treasurer Selinda Barkhuis said this year many taxing districts decided to increase tax revenue to be collected on their behalf by the maximum allowed, which is 1 percent.

Additionally, two school districts, Port Angeles 121 and Quillayute 402, passed levies in 2011.

“Clallam County taxpayers should receive their 2012 property tax bills by the end of February and many of them will be dismayed to see that while their property values went down, their property tax bill went up,” Barkhuis said.

 

The Clallam County Treasurer’s Office will collect all the $77.2 million in property taxes to distribute to some 40-plus taxing districts countywide. The Clallam County General Fund receives 12.53 cents of every property-tax dollar.

 

County Assessor Pamela Rushton said 2011 was the worst year for foreclosures, which still are impacting the market.

Tax distribution

In the Sequim district, $1.3 million will go to the City of Sequim, $7.3 million for Clallam County Fire District 3 through two levies and $7.3 million to Sequim School District 323.

 

Steve Vogel, fire chief for District 3, said the department operates as a county agency with property tax revenue as its only source of income. Other fire districts often operate under municipal governments and can generate revenue from utility fees and other sources, he said.

 

The maintenance and operations levy passed about eight years ago and adequately funds district activities along with an EMS levy renewed for the second time three years ago to run a paramedic program started in 1982, he said.

 

The district also received about $7.3 million last year, according to the Treasurer’s Office.

 

“We don’t expect to go to voters for a long time,” Vogel said.

 

The majority of property tax revenue, roughly $19.2 million, goes to county school districts. Another $17.7 million is collected through the state school taxing district.

 

A total of $9.7 million will go to Clallam County, according to the Assessor’s report.

Paying up

Payment of the first half of property taxes is due April 30. Drop boxes are available in front of the Clallam County Courthouse, 223 E. Fourth St., Port Angeles, and the licensing office in Sequim at 1001 E. Washington St. The Sequim location is a check-payment drop only.

 

The Treasurer’s Office also accepts most major debit and credit cards in the office at the courthouse, at www.clallam.net/taxes/payment.html, or by calling 888-272-9829.

 

There are property tax relief programs available. For more information, call the County Assessor’s Office at 417-2400.

 

Reach Amanda Winters at awinters@sequimgazette.com.
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