King County residents awaiting their property tax bills shouldn’t expect a break because of the pandemic, County Assessor John Wilson said Wednesday.
Across the county, property taxes will increase by an average of 4%, according to the county assessor’s office, though some areas where voters approved tax hikes will see double-digit increases.
The assessor sets values based on data from January of the previous year. So, the bills arriving any day now are based on January 2020 values, before the pandemic hit locally and hammered the economy. Increases are driven more by new levies and tax measures approved by voters than by rising property values, according to the assessor’s office.
Property owners in several areas of South King County will see the highest increases this year: 18% in Algona, 15% in Maple Valley, 13% in Pacific and 11% in Enumclaw.
Those areas saw increases because of voter-approved levies for several school districts and a regional fire district, according to the assessor’s office. Voters also approved levies for fire services and school districts in Auburn, Kent, Bellevue, Fall City and elsewhere. King County voters passed a proposition in November to issue bonds to fund upgrades at Harborview Medical Center. Property tax increases will repay the bonds.
Countywide, property tax collections this year will be $6.6 billion, up $256 million from the previous year, according to the county assessor.
The median single-family home value in Seattle dropped slightly from $690,000 to $674,000 and taxes for the median home dropped about 1.5% or about $92.50, according to the assessor’s office. The median value rose in Bellevue from $936,000 to $961,000 and the median taxes increased 4.3%. In Renton, median value went up from $445,000 to $455,000 and taxes on the median house went up 2.45%. (Individual tax bills are based on each home’s assessed value.)
In King County this year, about 57% of tax revenues will pay for schools and 17% will go to the county for services like roads and parks, according to the assessor.
Unlike last year, taxpayers who pay their property taxes directly, rather than through a mortgage, will not get an extension this year. The due date for the first half of this year’s taxes is April 30.
Taxpayers who cannot pay on time may be eligible for payment plans from the county treasurer. Seniors and people with disabilities who meet certain income requirements can apply for tax exemptions and deferrals. The number of residents applying for senior exemptions jumped 300% last year, according to the assessor’s office.
Across the Puget Sound region, home prices shot up in 2020 compared to the prior year, despite the pandemic. Commercial space was a different story, as restaurants shuttered and office workers went remote. In office buildings downtown, vacancies are up and asking rates are down, according to the commercial real estate firm Kidder Mathews.
But if those commercial buildings see a drop in values, it won’t be reflected in their taxes until next year.
The assessor’s office is currently determining property values to set next year’s taxes. “It’s hard to know just yet,” Wilson said, “but we’ve warned state legislators and local officials that we don’t think it’s a 100% bet that revenues will continue upward.”
Wilson said “we expect a lot more appeals” of property valuations this year from commercial property owners whose businesses have suffered because of the pandemic.
The county is collecting feedback from commercial property owners about how the pandemic has affected businesses. Commercial property owners can submit information on the assessor’s website.