Spokane Journal of Business

Property valuations tick higher for county

$37.2 billion total marks first gain since 2009

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The total property value in Spokane County took an upward turn in 2013 for the first time since 2009, and levy rates leveled off after edging higher every year since 2008, says Spokane County Assessor Vicki Horton.

Spokane County’s total assessed value in 2013 was $37.2 billion, up 2.3 percent from a year earlier, but still 3.9 percent below the county’s 2009 peak valuation of $38.8 billion.

Horton says she’s encouraged by the long-anticipated uptick in property values following the protracted slump in valuations due to effects of the Great Recession.

“It should be welcome news for homeowners,” she says, “especially people waiting to sell after stagnant times.”

The average 2014 property tax rate in Spokane County is $13.76 per $1,000 valuation, down 9.5 cents from a year earlier. Under the average rate, a typical assessment for a home with a taxable value of $165,000—roughly the median sales price for homes sold through the Spokane Association of Realtors’ Multiple Listing Service in 2013—would be $2,271, down $15 compared with a home of the same value a year earlier.

Assessments for 2014 property taxes are based on 2013 valuations.

The county sent out tax notices earlier this month for 224,233 parcels assessed in 2013. The first-half payments of the tax assessments are due April 30, and the second-half payments are due Oct. 31.

The county has 56 taxing districts, which includes school districts, fire districts, cities, libraries, and roads. Some taxing districts overlap with others, creating more than 200 unique tax-code areas throughout the county, Horton says.

Levy rates can flatten or even drop as overall property values increase, because certain taxing districts don’t need to increase rates to maintain their budgets as property values within them increase, she says.

While average levy rates were level, the total 2014 tax levy for the county is $509.7 million, up 1.6 percent from a year earlier, when the total tax levy topped half a billion dollars for the first time.

“We’re a small portion of that,” Horton says of the county government’s share of the property taxes assessed, which amounts to less than 10 percent of the total tax levy.

State and local schools will receive the largest share, at 57 percent of the property taxes the county collects, followed by incorporated cities, which collectively receive 16 percent of the taxes collected. 

New construction increased for the second consecutive year in 2013, adding $377.7 million in valuation to this year’s tax rolls, which accounted for 45 percent of the year-over-year total increase in valuations.

The total new construction valuation on this year’s tax rolls, though, is still far below 2007 and 2008 tax years when the annual totals topped $1 billion for all of Spokane County.

Judging by an increase in building permits issued throughout the county in 2013 compared with a year earlier, Horton says she expects the county’s total assessed value will continue to climb during this year’s valuations.

Trends in new construction valuations generally lag a year behind building permits issued, as structures have to be 40 percent complete and weatherproofed with roofs, windows, and doors before July 31 to be added to the following year’s tax rolls, Horton says.

She says property owners appealed just over 1,000 assessed valuations for 2013, continuing a downward trend in the number of appeals since she was elected to office in 2010.

“We’ve expanded our appraisal methods to include census tracts, neighborhoods, and larger market areas” to ensure individual valuations reflect fair market values, she says, adding that the Assessor’s Office has implemented a program that improves appraiser accountability.

Meantime, staffing within the Assessor’s Office has remained constant with 42 employees, including 21 appraisers, Horton says.

Mike McLean
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Deputy Editor Mike McLean has worked his entire journalism career in the Inland Northwest. Mike, who also lives to reel in fish and crank up music, has worked for the Journal since 2006.

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