Property owners get relief from tax they did not vote on

Sound Transit now can levy a tax only on full parcels entirely within its taxing district.

OLYMPIA — State lawmakers have approved legislation making it possible for a handful of Snohomish County homeowners to stop paying property tax for the expansion of Sound Transit.

The Senate bill makes clear that Sound Transit can only levy its property tax on full parcels located entirely within its taxing district. It passed the House on a 98-0 vote March 2 and will go to Gov. Jay Inslee for his expected signature.

Senate Bill 6475 resolves a problem that surfaced following voters’ approval of the $54 billion Sound Transit 3 expansion plan in 2016.

As part of the plan’s financing package, Sound Transit was allowed to start collecting a property levy of 25 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.

Turns out some Snohomish County property owners were required to pay the new tax in 2017 even though they didn’t get to vote on the ballot measure. That’s because their parcel straddles the boundary and they live on the portion outside the district.

In Snohomish County, transit agency boundaries generally follow city limits and urban-growth boundaries in unincorporated areas. Some neighborhoods were built after those lines were drawn in 1996, resulting in some properties getting bisected by the taxing district boundary.

There are 52 affected properties in Snohomish County and others in King and Pierce counties.

Under the legislation, owners of those properties must pay the tax to Sound Transit in 2018. They won’t starting in 2019.

“I am happy that we give some relief to property owners inadvertently pulled into the taxing district,” said Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens, prime sponsor of the legislation.

Rep. Mark Harmsworth, R-Mill Creek, introduced a similar bill in 2017. It passed the House three times only to lapse in the Senate.

This year, the Senate passed Hobbs’ version and it almost didn’t make it out of the House. The vote occurred a half-hour before a deadline for action on non-budget bills from the other chamber.

“I was a little nervous it wasn’t going to make it,” Harmsworth said.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield @herald Twitter: @dospueblos.

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