County moving to annual property assessments

Published on Wed, Jun 3, 2009 by Pat Grubb

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Whatcom County assessor Keith Willnauer has announced he plans to institute annual property assessments ahead of a state-mandated deadline.

Willnauer, a long-time advocate of annual assessments, says he plans to adopt the new system during the 2010 assessment year for property taxes that will be due in 2011.

Governor Christine Gregoire signed a bill that would require such assessments by all county assessors in the state by 2014.

Willnauer contends that annual property assessments have substantial benefits over the current four-year cycle. All properties would stay aligned with current real estate conditions, especially with the current downward trend in real estate values.

Additionally, property owners would not experience sudden hikes every four years and individual property tax burden distributions would be more uniform across the county.

The assessor’s office will physically inspect approximately 18,000 properties annually as well as adding new
construction to the tax roll. The figure represents roughly one-sixth of all county properties. The remaining valuations will be determined statistically, if needed.

Overall, the change will not result in extra property taxes although individual property owners may see their taxes rise or fall. Washington operates on a budget-based property tax system.

Revenues are determined either by additional or new taxes as directed by voters or budget increases of 1 percent passed by taxing districts.