Increases in notice valuations threaten higher property taxes | Letter

Recently released increases in notice valuations threaten higher property valuations and higher property taxes. These higher property taxes are expressed as dollars per thousand of assessed property value. County assessors set the levy rate “r” to clear San Juan County’s budget B. Therefore the levy rate “r” satisfies r=(county budget)/(sum over i of island property valuations v(i) and the property tax p(i) for a property with valuation v(i) becomes p(i)=r*v(i). Then the sum of the property taxes conveniently equals the county budget.

The county budget is the only real number in this mathematical legerdemain. The levy rate, valuations (assessments) and property taxes are artifacts to cover the budget. The purported property values have no meaning since they do not reflect agreement between a buyer and a seller. Given the housing disparity on the island, no one properly estimates property values. Realtors fail miserably since they rely on uncomparables. The realtors usually choose some dubious comparable for a quick sale. The county assessors use equally dubious criteria to fudge a metric that delivers the budget.

Assuming more expensive houses receive more benefits than less expensive houses, the county attaches a democratic patna to sooth and finance county prerogatives. Those prerogatives may be less democratic and more self-serving. County employees usually receive higher salaries and more benefits during a four-day work week than mere islanders receive during a five-day work week. Only rich irony tolerates someone working five days a week to support someone working four days a week. Since the mathematics guarantees that valuations only increase with budget increases, the county assumes full blame for increased financing and increased valuations.

John Drake,

Friday Harbor