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SSB 5368, titled An Act Relating to making provisions for all counties to
value all property annually for property tax purposes, is a good bill in my
opinion. This bill is co-sponsored by Senator Linda Evans Parlette, Republican,
from the 12th District which covers Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Okanogan Counties
and Senator Margarita Prentice, Democrat, from the 11th District which covers
Currently State law allows a county to either be on an annual form of
revaluation or on a cyclical form of revaluation not to exceed re-appraisal of
property every fourth year. Currently twenty counties are annual counties, one
county is on a two year rotation, one county is on a three year cycle and
seventeen counties are on a four year cycle. Of those seventeen counties on a
four year revaluation cycle, I know of six counties, including Okanogan County,
which are working towards adopting an annual revaluation cycle.
UPDATE: As per legislation passed in the 2009 session, all 39
counties must have an annual form of revaluation in place by 2014. Okanogan
County has been approved as an annual revaluation county as of 2010.
This move will lead to uniformity among properties. How is it fair under the
current system when one group of properties is paying property taxes based upon
an assessed value that was recently updated based upon comparable sales within
their area while others within the County are paying on assessed values that may
be three or four years old and may not reflect current market value?
This will not lead to a money grab by the taxing districts. Taxing districts are
still restrained by I-747 which limits the increase in their property tax budget
to not exceed 1% more than they collected in the prior year plus increases
generated from new construction built within their district plus increases in
State assessed values within their district. Voted upon property tax measures
are outside the 1% limitation and can have a far greater impact on the amount of
taxes that you pay.
Taking a look at property values annually will help eliminate the sometimes huge
spikes in value increases that occur when property is revalued every fourth
year. Large increases in assessed values typically lead to large increases in
property taxes. This is due to the shift that occurs when only a portion of
values are adjusted to reflect market value while others are paying on three or
four year old values as well as the fact that some areas within a revaluation
area have experienced greater market appreciation due to their location in
relation to other areas of the revaluation area.
One of the first questions I am asked when assessments go up is how much more
will I pay? Under the current system of revaluation of assessments every fourth
year, it is difficult for me to predict that for folks until we receive the
budget requests for all 63 different taxing districts within Okanogan County. If
we are able to adjust assessments gradually, either up OR down, based upon the
market, it will lead to more gradual increases OR decreases and thus lend itself
to better predictability in tax payments.
Annual revaluation will allow my office to react to the market quicker.
Currently under a four year revaluation cycle, State law requires that we
re-appraise property every fourth year based upon comparable sales of similar
property that occurred prior to the re-assessment date. If the market takes a
downturn 6 months or a year later, those properties that were just appraised
cannot be re-adjusted until their turn comes around again (assessments are based
upon the date of appraisal as per State law). In an annual revaluation system,
we can adjust the assessment downward if the market warrants in the following
Going to an annual form of revaluation will help my office stay efficient. When
I became Assessor in 1998 the office had 17 employees including the Assessor and
there were about 40,000 real property parcels within Okanogan County. Currently
we have 13 employees including myself and 48,000 real property parcels. So we
have had a 24% reduction in staff while the County parcel count has grown by
20%. If the County parcel count continues to increase, and it will, I may have
to add an employee to help with the increased workload. Under an annual
revaluation system, only 1/6 of the county or 8,000 parcels are required to be
physically inspected while the remaining 5/6 of the County may be statistically
updated. Having to physically inspect 8,000 parcels will free up one of my
employees to work on sales verification and statistical review. I will not need
to hire any new employees using an annual revaluation system. If we stay on the
present system, I will eventually have to.
Going to an annual revaluation system does not necessary mean that you will get
a new assessment every year. If, after review of the sales in your area and
market neighborhood, it looks like assessments are in line with sales, no
adjustment is necessary. That meets the minimum standard of an annual
revaluation system. If assessments warrant an adjustment, based upon the market,
they will be adjusted accordingly but due to the annual review process,
adjustments will be more gradual than folks have seen in the past and thus will
lead to better predictability in property tax bill increases or decreases.
Some think that going to an annual system of revaluation will lead to more
appeals to the Okanogan County Board of Equalization. On the contrary, Counties
that are currently on an annual revaluation cycle receive, on average, appeals
on approximately .5% of the properties that receive new notices each year while
Counties that are on a cyclical form of revaluation, such as Okanogan County,
receive appeals on 1.5% of the properties that are revalued each year. This, I
feel, is due to the gradual nature of an annual process as opposed to getting a
huge increase in assessment every fourth year.
One last point to consider is that until the entire State of Washington is on
the same revaluation cycle, how can decisions be made to change the system when
conclusions and data are drawn from different circumstances?
Two critical components of an annual revaluation cycle are to have a computer
assisted mass appraisal process in place as well as a digital parcel layer for
the County. Okanogan County has invested money over the past 10 years to create
both. These are critically important tools to have in an annual process.
I believe the computer assisted mass appraisal system we have in place as well
as the digital parcel layer have provided a good return on the investment the
County made in that folks now have web based access to our data including maps.
Our office had over 75,000 hits on our website in 2008. That�s over 200 per day.
I believe this is a change for the good and a good bill.
Scott D. Furman
Okanogan County Assessor
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