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Much of Pierce County to see double-digit increases in property taxes

PIERCE COUNTY — Property taxes are going up this year in Pierce County.

According to the Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer Mike Lonergan, taxes on the average home will rise between 4 percent and 9 percent in Puyallup, Edgewood, Steilacoom and DuPont.

“And they’re the lucky ones,” Lonergan said.

The rest of Pierce County will see double-digit increases, with the highest around 20 percent in Lakewood, University Place, Parkland-Spanaway and Fircrest. Tacoma and Gig Harbor taxes will each go up an average of 14 percent.

The reason for the sharp increase is two-fold: actions by the state Legislature in its continued response to the McCleary school funding case and votes by residents to increase tax rates in various districts.

“The Legislature’s previous limit of $1.50 per thousand dollars of property value on local school enrichment levies was increased to $2.50,” Lonergan explained, “and a 30-cent reduction in the state school levy has expired. So that’s a $1.30 per thousand increase to start with.”

Voters in the Bethel, Peninsula and Yelm school districts and the city of Fircrest passed capital bond issues taking effect in 2020, and six fire districts have voter-approved levies or lid lifts starting this year.

“While our assessed values continue to rise, that’s not what drives these big increases,” Lonergan added. “Over 58% of the taxes I collect go to K-12 school funding, so the voted changes there make a huge difference.”

Without a ballot issue, the property tax revenue of a taxing district (i.e. a city or county) can only go up 1 percent each year, plus the tax resulting from new construction. Lonergan said most property tax bills in Pierce County went down in 2019. This year’s increase erases that reduction and takes them higher than previous (2018) levels.

Property owners who pay their taxes directly should look for a statement in the mail in mid-February. Those whose taxes are paid out of mortgage accounts may look up their taxes online beginning Feb. 1. The first half payment is due no later than April 30, with the balance due by Nov. 2.

The assessor noted one other change this year is that the maximum household income to qualify for a low-income senior or disabled exemption has increased to $45,708. An application form is available on the Assessor-Treasurer’s website or at the Pierce County Annex, 2401 S. 35th St. in Tacoma.

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