Time to pay up – 5 things to know about Whatcom County property taxes in the spring

Your property taxes are going up. Gov. Inslee explains why

Local property taxes are rising by 9 percent or more. House Bill 2242 is a big part of the increase.
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Local property taxes are rising by 9 percent or more. House Bill 2242 is a big part of the increase.

Here are five things to know about property taxes in Whatcom County, which are due in the spring on April 30:

1. Washington generally 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. In addition, for taxes due in 2018-2021, the Legislature approved a temporary fixed rate funding strategy for public basic education.

2. Each property in Whatcom County is revalued every year. Property is appraised in several ways, including sales of similar properties, structure replacement costs and income of business properties. An increase in value does not mean that next year’s property taxes will increase at a proportionate rate. Total assessed values of real property, new construction and personal property increased 7.8 percent from 2017 to 2018, according to values from the Whatcom County Assessor’s annual tax books.

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 had 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 Greenways, or create a new district, such as EMS, 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 that must be paid and postmarked by April 30 and Oct. 31. Be sure to mail your payments several days in advance as local mail goes to Seattle before being returned to county offices. Information about your statement is online at whatcomcounty.us/Treasurer. Select “payment center” then “tax statement information.” You can also pay by phone at 855-461-9815.

Julie Shirley directs news coverage for The Bellingham Herald and has been the executive editor since 2003. She’s been an editor in Florida, California and Washington since 1979.