Sammamish homeowners brace for property tax spike
For homeowners throughout King County, the past few years have been good for their net worth on paper. Home prices everywhere have been on the climb. According to King County Assessor John Wilson in May, there had been a 43% increase in home values for Redmond, a 45% increase for Kirkland, and a startling 52% increase for Sammamish.
But with higher property values, these same homeowners must now reckon with their property value assessments, and many are growing alarmed at what their higher assessment could mean for their property taxes next year.
Property taxes are calculated based on the required revenue for all public taxing districts in the region, including county government, cities, schools, and water districts. After their total revenue needs are set, that amount is divided amongst property owners based on their property values. These property values are assessed in January each year.
However, state law limits tax increases for these districts to 1% annually. Some districts raise their tax budget by more 1% if they have banked capacity from not making increases for a number of years. There are also voter-approved levies, which can increase tax rates beyond that limit. Part of the problem is that effective property tax rates are opaque and complex to calculate. That has left residents fearful of how high their bills will grow. Their concerns have been exacerbated by inflation that is at a 40-year high.
Manoj Chowdhary, 49, has resided in Sammamish for the past 15 years. He said the substantial increase in his property value is unprecedented, and he was shocked when he saw the notice that came in the mail.
“I knew my [property assessments] were going to increase by a lot this year, but my expected increase was maybe 20%. Definitely not 40%,” Chowdhary said.
He said he may have to drain some of his children’s college funds or his retirement savings to pay his property tax bill next year.
Joannie Masters, 73, is retired and already living on a fixed income. She has lived in Sammamish for 34 years and has been a retiree for 16 of those years. Masters feels heavily affected by her new property value, and what that may mean for her tax bill. The appraised value for her home went up by 47%.
“I won’t be able to go on vacation this year. And I won’t be able to buy that car that I’ve been trying to save up for,” Masters said.
Atul Sikaria, in his 40s, was similarly shocked at what he described was the highest annual increase he had ever seen.
“A 10% range has been the historical increase, and it was what I was expecting. So, receiving a 60% increase was very disappointing, especially given that the property values have actually been declining lately,” Sikaria said.
In an email with the Sammamish Independent, the office of county Councilmember Sarah Perry explained why assessments came in so high this year.
“State law requires King County Assessor John Wilson to set values at 100% of true and fair market value based on sales occurring up to five years prior to the assessment date,” Perry’s office said.
They said Assessor Wilson might propose a broad-based homeowner tax exemption, but offered no details on who would benefit, nor a timeline of when we would see the proposal.
Sikaria plans to submit an appeal to the county on his property appraisal. He believes he has enough evidence to support his case.
Chowdhary is also girding up for an appeal. He cited a neighboring home sale as evidence. Assessments were made in January, but by late August, someone who lived two doors down from Chowdhary sold a property for $300,000 less than the assessed value. That was a drop of 17%.
But Masters, the retiree, does not plan to fight the county.
“[The assessor] had to pick a certain point in time to evaluate the house. It was just our luck that they picked to do that at the peak of the sales,” Masters said.
County Councilmember Sarah Perry is hosting a virtual town hall on property taxes on Monday, October 17 at 6:30 p.m. You can sign up to attend the event here: https://form.jotform.com/222756130303142