King County Assessor talks property taxes, homeownership with REALTORS®

King County Assessor John Wilson joined the Seattle King County REALTORS® Governmental & Public Affairs Committee meeting Tuesday to talk about the imminent property tax increase facing county homeowners. The legislature passed the increase last summer to satisfy education funding requirements set forth by the Washington Supreme Court’s McCleary decision.

In the McCleary decision, the Supreme Court found that students in some areas of the state were not – and are not – receiving their constitutional right to a basic education, because local voters weren’t approving the funding needed to cover those costs.

The state government, not local school districts, is now responsible for collecting property taxes to fund basic education costs. Instead of having voter-approved tax rates that vary by school district, the state is applying a uniform tax based on assessed property value.

Part of the goal of the uniform property tax charge for schools is to shift some of the tax burden away from local levies to help close the gap between rich and poor districts and ensure that children receive a quality education, no matter what zip code they live in.

The Assessor expressed his concern that rising property taxes combined with recent federal tax reform will make homeownership less attractive to many, especially first-time homebuyers. “Homeownership is a foundational building block of communities,” he said.

Wilson said his office is still finalizing the numbers and will have information available soon, but that Seattle property owners should expect about a 16.9 percent increase in property tax, and property owners in Bellevue will likely see a raise of just over 21 percent.

He concluded by saying that the rate of property tax growth is not sustainable and acknowledged that rising property taxes adds to our housing affordability problem.