Property owners might get relief from tax they didn’t vote on

Bills would bar Sound Transit from levying its property tax on anything less than a whole parcel.

OLYMPIA — A vexing problem for owners of property straddling the Sound Transit taxing boundary is once again getting attention from lawmakers.

These owners are required to pay the property levy approved by voters in 2016 to help fund the expansion plan known as Sound Transit 3.

But they didn’t get to vote on that ballot measure because the portion of the parcel they live on is outside the district.

On Wednesday, bills barring Sound Transit from levying its property tax on anything less than a whole parcel located entirely in its taxing district were discussed in two legislative committees.

It’s not a new conversation.

In the 2017 session, Rep. Mark Harmsworth introduced House Bill 1958 to assist property owners. The bill passed the House three times only to lapse in the Senate.

On Wednesday, the House Transportation Committee revived his legislation, amended it to iron out a wrinkle regarding its implementation, and advanced it toward another vote.

Also Wednesday, the Senate Transportation Committee held a public hearing on its similarly worded version, Senate Bill 6475. Harmsworth and Snohomish County Assessor Linda Hjelle testified in support.

Passage of the 2016 ballot measure allows collection of 25 cents per $1,000 of assessed value to help finance the $54 billion expansion known as ST3. It also triggered a half-cent rise in sales tax and a 0.8 percent hike in the excise tax rate used in calculating car-tab fees in the district encompassing parts of Snohomish, King and Pierce counties.

There are 52 affected properties in Snohomish County and others along the transit agency boundaries in King and Pierce counties.

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 a handful of properties straddling the boundary.

Hjelle said her office must treat the portions of land inside and outside the Sound Transit boundary as separate parcels, thus resulting in the owners receiving two tax statements

“It is a big impact to these property owners,” she said.

Harmsworth said this is an issue of taxation without representation that can be resolved with the legislation.

No one testified against the bill.

The last scheduled day of the legislative session is March 8.

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

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