Changes in education funding leads to higher King County property taxes in 2020

King County Treasury to send bills Feb. 14

  • Thursday, February 13, 2020 12:05pm
  • News

Two changes in Washington state’s school funding formula will lead to a 13.7% increase in property tax collections in King County for the 2020 tax year.

Overall property tax collections for the 2020 tax year are $6.3 billion, an increase of $767 million or 13.7% from the previous year of $5.7 billion, according to a King County Assessor news release Thursday. Total county value increased by 5.92%, from $ 606.6 to $642.5 billion.

The increase in taxes is primarily due to two changes in education funding made by the Legislature; an increase in the statewide education levy, and increased authority for school districts to collect local levies:

The Legislature passed a bill in the 2017 legislative session to fully fund the state’s program for basic education (McCleary). The total state rate of $2.70/$1,000 was to be for tax years 2018 thru 2022. In 2018 the Legislature passed a bill to temporarily lower the total state rate to $2.40/$1,000. Under the law, the 2020 State School Fund rate is now back to $2.70/$1,000 for the 2020 tax year,

In conjunction with the above, another bill authorizes enhancement levies (aka maintenance and operation levies) to increase from the maximum $1.50/$1,000 to $2.50/$1,000 of assessed value, $2,500 per student enrollment ($3,000 for some districts), or the voter approved amount for the 2020 tax year, whichever is the lessor of the three amounts.

King County Treasury will begin sending out the annual property tax bills Feb. 14. King County collects property taxes on behalf of the state, the county, cities, and taxing districts (such as school and fire districts), and distributes the revenue to these local governments.

About 55 percent of property tax revenues collected in King County in 2019 pays for schools. Property taxes also fund voter-approved measures for veterans and seniors, fire protection, and parks. King County receives about 18 percent of your property tax payment for roads, police, criminal justice, public health, elections, and parks, among other services.

“Property tax policy remains in a state of flux,” said King County Assessor John Wilson in the news release. “It’s important to remember changes in the law, or approval of special levies, have much more impact on changes to your tax bill than does the changing value of your property.”

Property taxes vary depending upon location, the assessed value of the property, and the number of jurisdictions levying taxes (such as state, city, county, school district, port, fire district, etc).

A number of levies and other property tax measures were approved by voters in 2019 for collection in 2020. They include:

• King County: Renewal of the EMS regular property tax levy at a rate of $0.265/$1,000 for the first year of the six-year levy, an increase in rate of $0.04738/$1,000 from the previous year.

• King County: Renewal of Parks lid lift at a rate of $0.1832/$1,000 for the first year. Seniors/disabled taxpayers in the Senior Exemption Program are exempt from paying this lid lift.

•Puget Sound Regional Fire Authority – Six-year lid lift to restore the property tax levy to $1.00/$1,000.

• Two (Seattle and Renton) of the 20 school districts in King County passed enhancement levies.

• Renton School District passed an unlimited bond for $249.6m over 21 years.

The numerous school measures, including the Kent School District, approved by voters on the Feb. 11 ballot will impact taxes in 2021.

Low-income seniors, veterans and disabled homeowners may qualify for a property-tax exemption offered by King County. Information on how to apply for an exemption, along with other property-assessment-related information, can be found at kingcounty.gov/assessor.

Property owners can find tax levy rates and more property related information by visiting the eReal Property Search on the King County Assessor’s website or by calling 206-296-7300.

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