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San Juan County Taxed Highest in State

All too frequently, we find property tax increases on our ballots. Predictably letters to the editor cry “We pay the lowest tax rates in the state!”

Try to write a check for a tax rate. You pay a tax levy, not a tax rate. The fact is that the taxes we pay, per county resident, are the highest in the state.  By far the highest.

A tax bill is computed my multiplying the tax rate for each of the various districts and boards by the assessed value of the property. Our average assessed value is the highest in the state by a huge amount.  High assessments occur because the high cost of construction on an island. Also, we have a large percentage of elderly folks, present company included, who don’t have the lower priced starter homes.

I will lead you through the steps so that you can verify the fact that we are certainly overtaxed here inSan Juan County.

Start by searching for the home page of the Washington Department of Revenue on the Internet. Under the heading “Find Taxes & Rates”, click on the “Property Tax” area and then “Get property tax statistics, laws and rules, and other resources”. On the next page, click  “Property tax statistics”.  On the next page, click “Tax Statistics”. Choose “Tax Statistics 2011” and you are there.

Now to the actual tax tables. Find Table 26 first. Surprise, the tax levies from 2010 to 2011 went up 9.1%.  So much for only raising the taxes on us 1% per year.

Within Table 26 add the population per county as another column. Search “population by county” for a table of population by county for 2011.  It is based upon the 2010 census. Excel vs pdf may require additional work to compile these tables.

Crunch time. Compute the Taxes per Resident for both 2010 and 2011. Then, sort the whole spreadsheet by the Taxes per Resident in 2011 in descending order.  If you can’t do this, ask your kid or grandkid for help.  They can do it with their thumbs on a Smartphone.

If you include the state TOTAL in your sort, you will have to redo the state population since it will get modified in the sort.  Put the state total population of 6,733,392 back in that cell and see that the state average property tax collection per resident is $1,359.93, while the same tax bill here in our county is $2,755.66.  We are taxed at more than twice the state average.  And almost FOUR TIMES the tax load inYakimacounty.  And 50% higher thanKingCounty, which is in second place.  How does that make you feel when you know that you pay the lowest rate in the state?

Shocking is the realization that the assessed value per capita for property in this county as compared with the rest of the state. In Table 31, see the “Assessed Value of All Taxable Property” in the county.  The values assessed in 2010 are used to compute the taxes due in 2011.  Again, put in the population of each county and sort by the Assessed Value per Capita.  Turns out that the average Assessed Value per person here in beautifulSan JuanCountyis a whopping $515,980.66.  Remember, that is PER PERSON!  This is based on a county valuation of over $8 Billion and a population of 15,769.

Compare that with the state average Assessed Value of $122,460.76.  We are over FOUR TIMES the state average.  Tell that to the folks who love our low tax rate.  And the number two county in assessed value isJeffersonCountywith an average value of $181,482.99.  We are almost THREE TIMES the value of the county in second place. We ought to look at the assessment process in this county.

One final table to work with is Table 28 the Levy Rate Table for 2011.  We have the lowest rate in the state, by far.  Youbetcha.  Ours is $5.35 per $1000 compared to a state average of $11.14 and the highest at $13.17.  Aren’t we lucky? Did any of you try to write your recent check to the county for that rate?

Some argue that we have many expensive second homes where non-residents pay taxes and don’t use county services.  We aren’t the only county in the state in that position, but still have the highest taxes.  All those skyscrapers and factories inKingCountyhave large assessments and pay plenty of property taxes.  All this doesn’t explain whey we are TWICE the state average.

Dave Vandaveer

San JuanIsland