On Nov. 21, the Sammamish City Council voted to levy a 1% increase on property taxes in 2024. The levy was approved 6-1, with Councilmember Pam Stuart dissenting.
According to Washington State law, Sammamish may increase property taxes by a maximum of 1% a year of the total property tax value implemented across the city for the year. The King County assessor’s office then determines the property tax rate for each property. Therefore, this increase in property taxes does not directly correspond to an increase in rates.
Property taxes are currently the city’s main source of revenue, but the total amount of property taxes collected does not go completely to the city. 64% of it goes to fund schools, and 24% of the revenue funds King County services. That leaves the City of Sammamish with about 12% of the property tax proceeds.
This approved tax increase is expected to yield an additional $296,391 in revenues for the city in 2024.
In an interview with the Sammamish Independent, Councilmember Karen Howe said that this increase is a precautionary measure to support the city’s financial position. She also noted the need to keep up with inflation and rising city expenses as reasons for the increase in property tax.
“Right now we don’t have a ton of tools to generate revenue beyond, for example, incremental increases in property taxes,” Howe said. “1% doesn’t even begin to keep up with the four plus percent increase that inflation has delivered to us.”
Howe said that the city plans to use the money from the property tax increase towards underfunded capital projects. The city currently does not have a set source of funding for capital projects without dedicated funds. Such projects include those around roads, sidewalks, and trail connections.
“We have to look at increasing revenues across the board in such a way that we can even begin the funding of some of these significant projects,” said Howe.
According to Howe, this increase amounts to only “a few hundred dollars per home.”
“It is not a massive tax by any stretch,” Howe said.
However, Stuart said that the 1% increase may exceed what is necessary. She believes actual expenditures will likely be lower than what the budget estimates, pointing to an underspending of over $4.3 million within the general fund over the past year.
“Over the last 15 years, we have historically significantly underestimated revenues and overestimated expenses,” Stuart said in an interview with the Sammamish Independent.
She also cited her concern over the lack of clear planning for funding many of the city’s capital projects. She worries that an increase can be burdensome to homeowners, especially long-term Sammamish residents on fixed incomes.
“Because I couldn’t see the immediate need for that property tax increase right now, I’d rather wait until we understand how we’re going to pay for those capital projects,” Stuart said.
Howe expects property taxes to continue to increase in the future to support infrastructure while taking into account rising inflation, cost of living, and higher expenses. However, she predicted that Sammamish residents’ property taxes will likely go down in 2025.
“It’s not an automatic go up every year thing,” she said.
A recording of the Nov. 21 Sammamish City Council meeting is available for viewing on the City of Sammamish’s YouTube channel.