No windfalls here

I’m writing in response to Darrel Hambley’s letter regarding property tax (“Tax increases: Be careful about wording,” Nov. 27). He, like many others, assumes that an increase in the assessed value of a home means an increase in the taxes received by the government. It’s a common belief, but it’s not true.

When property is reassessed the amount of taxes paid by individual taxpayers may change, but the amount paid by all taxpayers (and received by the city or county) stays the same. The reassessment alone does not increase the revenues one cent. The tax rate per $1,000 of value is adjusted downward to maintain the same revenue for a city.

Why then do taxpayers’ bills generally go up after an assessment? There are several reasons. First, Snohomish County reassesses property every four years. When your home is reassessed, taxes are shifted from the three areas which are not reassessed to property in your area. For the next three years the shift works in your favor.

Second, residential property has been gaining value faster than many commercial properties. That means the shift goes from commercial to homeowners. Third, when more seniors apply for low income discounts, the tax is shifted onto those who do not get the discounts. Fourth, voters approve levies, bonds, and other increases. Fifth, jurisdictions do increase taxes.

The key point is that reassessment, by itself, results in no increase in revenues for a city or county. I and the other members of the Mountlake Terrace City Council have worked hard to hold down property taxes in the last few years. But it’s important that taxpayers understand that reassessment does not mean higher revenues for Mountlake Terrace or any other local government. We have not been getting windfall property tax increases.

Mountlake Terrace

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