SPOKANE, Wash. — 2019 property taxes for Spokane County were finalized on Tuesday and for the first time since 1999, the total amount to be collected will be less than that of the previous year.
In 2018, the county collected $618,776,702 in property taxes. In 2019, it will collect $578,414,414. That's $40,362,287 less, the largest decrease in county history.
What's driving such a huge drop? Primarily, the McCleary decision in the state Supreme Court and the state legislature's response to it.
State School Levy
To refresh, that 2012 decision declared that the state was failing to sufficiently fund education, as required by the state constitution.
In order to fix that problem and comply with the court's ruling, the Washington legislature issued a new statewide education levy. But, that levy brought in more money than expected because Washington's property values are so high these days.
This year, the state is making an adjustment, and decreasing the statewide levy rate by 30 cents per $1,000 of property value.
Local School Levy
The state levy decrease is, however, minor compared to the drop in local school levies.
The laws the legislature passed regarding McCleary included one that capped the amount individual districts can levy. As a result, local school tax rates are dropping dramatically.
The Spokane School District's rate is falling from $5.65 (per $1,000 of property value) to $4.17.
The result: The district will collect $20,549,409 less in property taxes this year than it did in 2018.
Other districts are facing the same issues. For example, Central Valley's rate is going from $5.02 to $3.28, meaning $11,531,110 less will be collected. Mead will go from $4.87 to $3.43, collecting $6,280,385 less.
The only district in the county not seeing a rate drop is the St. John School District.
Some districts are seeing rate drops but will still collect more than last year, because increases in property values offset the decrease in levy rate.
Local School Bond
Bonds, however, are not affected by McCleary.
Bonds are specifically for physical construction, whereas levies are for programs.
Spokane recently passed a massive $495,300,000 bond. However, the school district is only going to use $53,450,000 of that in 2019.
The increase in bonds is more than offset by the decrease in levies.
There are a few other factors at play, too.
County, city, and road levies are slightly decreasing for the most part. Sometimes this is done to offset increases in property value.
Fire levies are largely making slight increases.
Spokane County property values increased by a lot this year.
The total assessed value for the county in 2018 was about $45.6 billion. In 2019, the value is about $49.7 billion.
That's a greater than $4 billion increase in value.
However, on average, that increase is still not enough to offset the McCleary-related decreases.
Obviously, what all of this means for individuals will vary.
On average, however, the total property tax rate in the county will go from $13.56 (per $1,000 of property value) to $11.63.
On a $250,000 home, that equates to $3,390 in property taxes last year, and $2,908 this year.
If you want to figure out what your exact taxes will be in 2019, a tool for that should be available on the county website in a few weeks.