Drop in property values subsides—for some

The assessed value of the 18,456 taxable parcels in San Juan County declined by a combined sum of nearly $3 million dollars in 2013, according to the San Juan County Assessor.

Property tax bills for 2014 are based on 2013 assessments.

That’s a small fraction compared to the previous year, in which the assessed value of all properties in San Juan County dropped by a combined $1.7 billion in 2012, or 21.4 percent.

There are 1,443 tax exempt parcels in the county, most of them owned by federal, state and local governments.

The largest reductions in assessed values occurred in the Rosario, Olga, Doe Bay tax codes area of Orcas Island (just under $27 million), the Friday Harbor area (down by $21.5 million) and in the south San Juan Island area (down by $19.2 million). The largest increase in assessed values was in the remainder of Orcas tax code area, where assessment went up by almost $28 million.

While some went up and others went down, the net reduction of the 19 county tax area codes together equals roughly $2.7 million.

This is the first year that year-over-year assessed value changes are “meaningful,” according to county Chief Appraiser John Kulseth, because 2014 is only the second year that the entire county has been revalued. Revaluations are now made annually to all county properties, although only one-sixth of the county is physically inspected every year. Other valuations are made on the basis of local property sales in the areas not physically inspected.

The change to annual revaluations, required by state law, will make future assessments “a lot fairer to everybody,” Kulseth said. “We’re really happy about annual countywide revaluations on a whole bunch of levels.”

Requested levy amounts by all taxing districts in the county went up only by .43 percent, mostly because the state levy request went down by 4.52 percent. All other districts except San Juan Hospital EMS and Orcas Cemetery District #2 went up. The total requested tax amount for San Juan County for 2014 is $42,654,506.

Tax rates for different islands show a substantial variation: Shaw, 4.78 percent; Waldron, 5.28 percent; Lopez 6.48 percent; Orcas, 6.84 percent; and San Juan, 7.48 percent. The Friday Harbor tax code area rate is 7.18 percent.

By now, most property owners have received their 2014 assessed value notices from the county assessor and their tax bills from the treasurer in advance of the April 30 “first half” payment due date. Second half payments are due October 31, 2014.