A Visit to the Assessor’s Office
The Grays Harbor County Assessor’s Office has a unique view of what’s going on in the county and from time to time we like to pay the office a visit to spread some of that insight.
So, we recently sat down with Assessor Dan Lindgren. Lindgren has been working in the Assessor’s Office for 10 years. He was elected County Assessor in November of 2014 and began his four-year term in January 2015.
A lot has happened since he started his new post a year and a half ago and we were eager to hear what our economy looks like from his perspective.
For starters, Lindgren said, the overall assessed value of the area is starting to climb again – a sign of a healthier economy and more interest in our area.
In 2016, the overall real and personal property assessed value of the county –all 67,562 parcels – was $5,835,628,957. That is up from $5,768,177,791 in 2015, Lindgren said.
“After the downturn in the economy a few years back, finally we are not decreasing in value as a county,” Lindgren said.
Another recent change that has affected the Assessor’s Office – and all of us property taxpayers – is the change in Washington State law, beginning in 2014, which requires each county Assessor to appraise all the properties countywide each year.
Before 2014, the Grays Harbor County Assessor’s Office inspected and appraised each property in person every four years. Now the annual assessment is made by consulting real estate sales records and comparing a property with other similar properties sold that year. Then once every six years, an appraiser will assess each property in person. (We will give you a schedule of that in-person assessment later in the column.)
New tools have been employed to help the appraisers be able to do their work and a brand new software system has been purchased and refined as a tool soon available for everyone via the county website
In the columns in the next few weeks, we’d also like to share some specifics about area trends in property value that are easy for the Assessor to spot, as well as some growth highlights.
But before we get into some of these issues, we want to do a quick review of what the Assessor’s Office is responsible for.
ASSESSING HOW IT ALL WORKS
The Grays Harbor County Assessor’s Office is responsible for determining the value of all property – both residential and commercial – in the county.
To be clear, while what your property is worth plays a role in how high your tax bill will be, the Assessor’s Office has nothing to do with setting the tax rates. The property tax rates are determined by the budgets submitted by the taxing districts in the county or city you live in as well as the levies you vote on such as school district and fire district levies. (The state also plays a role because it determines the value of timber and utilities.)
When there are more property owners to share the burden of those budgets, each pays a little less. For instance, when you vote to pass a school district levy for a certain overall amount – let’s say $1 million, the more property owners available to pay the bill, the smaller piece of the pie each taxpayer has to pay.
Also helping to determine the amount of taxes each property owner pays is the various tax exemptions that certain properties have including government properties, nonprofit organizations and senior citizens and disabled people with limited incomes. That list also includes exemptions for commercial farms, destroyed property, properties in designated forest land programs and physical improvement exemptions.
For each property owner who doesn’t have to pay full property tax, the other taxpayers make up the difference, creating a “tax shift.”
SIX-YEAR VISIT CYCLE
Each residential and commercial property is assessed each year by working with the value of similar properties that have recently sold
Then, each September-through-June a different area of the county is assessed in person on a six-year rotation. During the summers all the new construction for the entire county is appraised.
This year the North Beach area is being appraised in person with the next in-person appraisal coming there in 2023.
Montesano, Satsop and Mary M. Knight school districts will be appraised in person in 2018. The Aberdeen School District will be appraised in 2019 and the Taholah and Ocosta districts in 2020.
In 2021, the Elma, McCleary, Oakville and Rochester area will be appraised.
Finally, in 2022 the Hoquiam, Wishkah, Lake Quinault, Cosmopolis and North River school districts, which were just appraised in 2016, will be appraised in person again.
In the next few weeks, we’ll be writing about many aspects of the Assessor’s Office and your property’s value. If you want more information about your assessment or any duties of the Assessor’s Office, take a look at the Grays Harbor County website at www.co.grays-harbor.wa.us or call the Assessor’s Office at 249-4121.
Dave Murnen and Pat Beaty are construction specialists at NeighborWorks® of Grays Harbor County, where Murnen is the executive director. This is a non-profit organization committed to creating safe and affordable housing for all residents of Grays Harbor County.
Do you have questions about home repair, renting, remodeling or becoming a homeowner? Call us at 533-7828, write us or visit us at 710 E. Market St. in Aberdeen