Enough Turkey; Let’s Talk Taxes

As part of the Kitsap Sun’s ongoing coverage of Kitsap County’s budget, on Sunday we will run a package on property taxes. In it, you’ll hear about a couple who successfully challenged the county on their property tax assessment, and we’ll present a Q&A with graphics to explain how property taxes in this county work.

I know, it’s just what you want to read about on what is billed as one of the biggest shopping weekends of the year. But with the recent state Supreme Court challenge to I-747, it’s a good time to get caught up on the basics.

Despite the court’s finding that I-747 is unconstitutional, all local jurisdictions have chosen for 2008 to stay within the 1 percent per year limit to property tax increases imposed by the now powerless initiative. And as a reminder (because if I don’t do it, Bob Meadows will):

a. The 1 percent limit is based on the previous year’s aggregate tax, exclusive of new construction, which is factored in separately. So the overall tax increase has each year been more than 1 percent. (See info on the City of Port Orchard below for an example.)
b. The limit is figured on aggregate taxes (what we all pay as a group), not on individual accounts. Many other variables factor into your individual tax payment, so don’t be surprised that you haven’t seen a precise 1 percent increase each year.

Here’s a recap of our recent I-747 coverage, including two jurisdictions within South Kitsap, the Port of Bremerton and City of Port Orchard:

Special Session Set on Property Taxes

Port 2008 Property Tax Stays within 747 Limits

Tax Lids to Stay on Tight

Governments Sticking with 1 Percent Tax Increase

Here’s a breakout on Port Orchard’s decision, which may have gotten lost in the sauce:
Port Orchard passed its $1.59 million property tax levy ordinance Tuesday with the 1 percent lid in place, though new construction boosted the percentage lift to 6.2 percent. “I did not feel that anybody was tempted to raise it,” said city treasurer Kris Tompkins.

Members of the city’s finance committee briefly discussed the implications of the court’s ruling.

Tompkins said it’s also unlikely cities or counties would take full advantage of banked capacity from revenues it didn’t get over the previous five years. “I can’t see that anyone would ever do that to their constituents,” Tompkins said.

Appleton Approves of Court Decisions

Frank Talk on Taxes

One thought on “Enough Turkey; Let’s Talk Taxes

  1. I’m glad to see that the Sun is often including in their news reports the amount of the annual increases in the levies, rather than repeating the inaccurate and misleading “1 percent” bit.

    It is important to know, for example, that Port Orchard’s property tax revenue increase in 2008 will be (assuming your figure is correct) 6.2 percent. When the question arises whether the annual increase is big enough, it is not possible to give an honest answer without knowing that it is 6.2 percent in the coming year, not 1 percent.

    Is Tompkins new in Port Orchard? “I can’t see that anyone would ever do that to their constituents,” Tompkins said.

    Take a look at what Port Orchard did to take advantage of the city’s merger into the SK fire district. That wasn’t even “banked” levy capacity that the city used in raising the levy by large amounts. The city’s levy lid stayed at what it had been before the cost of fire protection began to be paid directly to the fire district by the city residents — and so the city went right back up to that lid even though it was no longer using part of that revenue to pay for fire protection services. (But, then, no one in Port Orchard apparently noticed, so I guess it doesn’t really matter, does it?)

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