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5 things to know about property taxes in Whatcom County

The Whatcom County Courthouse in downtown Bellingham on Feb. 10, 2016.
The Whatcom County Courthouse in downtown Bellingham on Feb. 10, 2016. pdwyer@bellinghamherald.com

Here are five things to know about property taxes in Whatcom County:

1. Washington uses a budget-based system to collect property taxes. Districts set a budget for the amount of money they need to collect. Your share of the overall tax money collected is based on your property’s value.

2. Each property in Whatcom County is revalued every year. Property is appraised several ways, including sales of similar properties, structure replacement costs and income of business properties. An increase in value does not mean the next year’s property taxes will increase at a proportionate rate.

3. Whatcom County properties are in an average of nine to 11 taxing districts. Tax bills list each district you pay. The assessor’s website lists what each collects.

4. Regular districts, including the county, cities, port and fire district, can increase the property tax budget 1 percent each year. The amount can also increase to include the value of new property. If a taxing district does not increase taxes by 1 percent in a year, it can “bank” that increase and take it later. If a district has not increased taxes for five years, “banking” them, it could then increase taxes by 5 percent in one year.

Voters may also approve an increase beyond the 1 percent for an established district, such as the Greenways levies approved in Bellingham, or create a new district, such as the 2106 EMS levy, that will require taxes. Special districts, such as schools, and special purpose bonds must ask voters to approve the total amount to collect for a period of time.

5. The county treasurer mails property tax bills in February for payments due April 30 and Oct. 31.

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