Upset About Your Property Tax Bill? Don’t Blame the Assessor.

Upset about your property tax bill? Don’t blame the Assessor…he’s just crunching the numbers in the database to calculate who pays all those taxes, from all the different taxing authorities and voter approved special levies. Our political leaders approve the budgets proposed by the County Executive and City Mayors, based on the differing needs of our public service entities like Cemetery, Police, Fire, Schools, Roads, Flood, Real Estate Development Excise, EMS, Greenways, Metropolitan Parks, etc., etc.

Thousands of Whatcom County property owners received their property tax liability bill this week. All over the County eyeballs were popping, heads were exploding, and pace-makers were working overtime. Why? Because the Pied-Piper brought the unsuspecting populace to the brink of the wharf and encouraged them to jump into the water. Whatcom County’s chickens have come home to roost. Or, better stated as the policies of our political leaders are working.

  • The County Council and the Bellingham City Council have chosen not to increase and fund the urban growth areas in Bellingham and Whatcom County, to accommodate local growth in a planned and sustained measure.
  • Without a proper supply of build-able lots, your assessed property values go up at a faster than normal
  • The voters approved the Whatcom County EMS Levy and the new Greenways levy.
  • The Hirst case removed available land supply. Land which had been available for permitted, build-able lots, disappeared because of the Counties moratorium on permitting for properties that require an exempt-well for potable water access. Good news is that the State Senate passed a fix for this (thank you Senator Ericksen) but it still must go over to and be passed by our State House of Representatives. And then maybe we can count on  the County Council to then lift their moratorium.
  • The Whatcom County Council have chosen to plan for low growth in Whatcom County as they workout our ten-year Comprehensive Growth Plan update. Failing to plan, or planning to fail?
  • The Whatcom County Council continue to pursue changes to the Cherry Point Industrial Growth Plan, which if passed, will lower the value of all those properties.
  • A lot of land purchased by nonprofits and the Tribes, receive different treatment on their property taxes. Most, if not all the land purchased by the Tribes, have received a “special exemption” from payment of property taxes by the Washington State Dept. of Revenue. That means they pay less or nothing at all…and you pay more.
  • The waterfront property in Bellingham (former GP) is still mostly empty, so after sixteen-years this valuable asset still doesn’t bring-in the property tax revenues that it used to.
  • Because of the Council’s regulatory and growth issues they’ve passed and continue to seek, BP has won a case to devalue their property assessment. Don’t blame BP for the past and current legislative practices of this Council.
  • Petro Gas is in line to do the same thing.
  • Most (if not all) the new multi-family homes that are built in Bellingham have received a ten-year exemption from payment of property taxes. Yet, they heavily increase the need and use of our public resources.

They’ve squeezed the single-family housing market, expanded the multi-family housing market and exempted them from the burden of property taxes, regulated and down-zoned properties which reduced their market valuations, consciously failed to plan for and pay for the needed infrastructure, compromised our communities needs and rewarded special interest, anti-growth agendas, and abdicated their responsibility to this community to make sure that they would promote and protect the businesses and industries which provide the jobs for our families, and pay the lions share of those property taxes.

So don’t be upset with the Assessor; things are working exactly as planned.

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  1. Very good article. I would add that the current senior (61+) low income exemption (under 40K yr) enables many home owners to vote on assessments on community amenities for which they personally don’t have to pay. So now we have “representation without taxation.” Alan Elzea, Property Tax Advocates

    • Yes, and thank you for that addition. There are so many different De Minimis special exemptions given out that are having a cumulative effect on single family property taxes. Couple that with a declining number of single family homes in Whatcom County and you can see the coming together of a picture which ought to concern everyone here. Affordable housing is not subsidized housing.

    • Lets not forget, these senior citizen have paid into the system for past 40 or so years, and their parents were paying when they were young. So are we and we will be senior citizen some day. Look at the bigger picture: why common american citizen is so flustered economically. It is not only in whatcom County or WA State, this is true all over USA. It is not a republican or democrat issue either.

  2. So now comes the slice to the throat of every renter except those in the 10-year-exempt multi-family dwellings. You, my dear renters, will see the increase in property taxes passed on to YOU. Landlords do not eat the increase. They include it as a cost of doing business. You are their clients so they pass it on to you. And for everyone who loves to go to dinner, even McD’s, look for an increase in your meal prices. That restaurant pays property taxes and it’s a cost of doing business which their customers eat, as it were. Look for increases on your clothing, your grocery shopping, your theater tickets, your big box store items. They all pay taxes on the property they own, or they’ll receive a tax increase from THEIR landlords which will be passed on to you through the price of their product. Best to go shopping in another county. Last but not least, gasoline stations have taxes to pay. Look for a change at the pump. Gotta love property taxes.

  3. You blame everyone but the system of capital, agitated by massive resource competition, that is driving prices and taxes up. Efforts to enhance and preserve our way of life would be better than the increase in exploitation and extraction you are crying for.

  4. After attending last weeks NW Business club meeting, I was stunned to see how much money the levy’s we have voted on will pull out of our personal funds. Millions and millions of dollars. It is not just a “latte a month” as usually portrayed..

  5. The way our local governance was set up more than 150 years ago (even earlier), has been that most of the essential services citizen get are from the County or City governments like, roads, law and justice, roads, local land use, basic health and many more. The funding formula was devised on two major sources: property taxes and Sales Taxes. The major income sources of state and Federal government have grown with time as our economic structure has changed. However the local governments are stuck in the same rut for their revenue. The income of bottom 60 percent of Americans has been eroding for last 40 years and so their ability to pay for local services is getting more and more strained. Our education cost and medical premiums are higher that the House and Food and Travel cost. It is fanciful to blame your local government being unreasonable because you deal with them daily basis. Our economy has been expanding and so did our Federal and state governments and so did the top 20 percent of wealth earners. Our Federal Budget is 4 trillion dollars and ALL states combined spend another similar amounts and we all pay for that from another pocket but never complain. The local government get all the unfunded mandates and have to comply because citizen see the homeless, the drug addicts, the poor population and want something done. and taken care of. This is all happening because we elected the State and Federal politician and never dare to question their decision making and deal making tactics. we have the governments we deserve.

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