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Tax revenue increased in Washington State, so why can’t we get out of debt?

Published on Thu, Sep 1, 2011 by BY PAM STEVENS | MANAGING EDITOR

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The Washington State Department of Revenue announced last week that the property tax revenue increased four percent to $9.2 billion in 2011. While this is great news for our government’s pocketbook, I am a little perplexed.

We continue to hear gripes and moans by state leaders’ that tax revenues are down and we have to continue to make cuts to education, yet we now hear that they have more money than expected.

Yes, I know that sales tax revenues are still down but as the cost of most of our other bills (i.e. sewer, electric, gas, phone, etc.) continue to rise, so do the taxes we pay on those bills. Right?

Another complaint is that property values are down, however, this hasn’t stopped the tax revenues from increasing. According the Dept. of Revenue most of this is because of new construction.

New construction and higher revenues from property taxes gives a glimmer of hope that the state economy may be starting to turn around.

Thank goodness for citizens who recognize the importance of educating our youth. Because of them voters approved 39.7 percent of property taxes through school levies and bonds. Other voter approved increases include levy lid lifts for fire districts and other junior taxing districts, and funding for emergency medical services. 
This was up 1.1 percent from 38.6 percent of property taxes due in 2010.

Let’s take a look at where the revenues from property taxes goes :
• K-12 schools receive 54.9 percent of property taxes – $5.0 billion – through the state school levy and voter-approved local levies and bonds.

• Counties receive 16.2 percent or $1.5 billion of the total.
• Cities get 13.2 percent or $1.2 billion.

•  Junior taxing districts such as hospitals, fire districts, ports   and libraries share 15.7 percent or $1.4 billion.

•  Single family residences comprised 69.4 percent of a total $780.1 billion in assessed valuation in 2010.
Here are some other interesting facts about property taxes:

• The average single family residence was valued at $243,998 in 2010 for taxes due in 2011.  The average tax statewide was $2,718, up $101 from 2010.

• Property tax revenue increased by the highest percentage in Columbia County at 24 percent and decreased the most in Island County with a 2.7 percent decline.

• Klickitat County was the only county to assess both real and personal property at 100 percent of market value, while Asotin County lagged the most at 82.9 percent.  The statewide average was 91.3 percent.

• Levy rates rose to a statewide average of $11.14 per $1,000 assessed value due in part to a 4.2 percent drop in the assessed values of existing properties. The statewide average was $10.28 for taxes due in 2010.

• A total of 114,800 senior citizen households on limited incomes saved $216 million in property taxes through relief programs, or an average of $1,881 per parcel.

• The taxable value of nearly 11.5 million acres of agricultural, timber and open space lands was reduced nearly 73.75 percent to $4.8 billion through the current use assessment program.

• Nearly 6.3 million acres of privately owned designated forest land had a taxable value of $804 million, or a taxable value of $127.6 per acre.

It’s a relief to see that our student’s education is at the top of the list of the property tax revenue. While most of this money is due to levies and bonds that were voter approved, it is still nice to see that the education of our children is important to those of us who live in this state.  Let’s continue to cross our fingers that this small step could mean a turning point for our lagging economy.

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