The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Rosemary Hoyt

Candidate claim is out of her control

Letter to the Editor


To the Editor:

At the Sept. 27 Lyle Candidates’ Night, a candidate for County Assessor betrayed serious ignorance of how property assessment and taxation work.

According to Darlene Johnson, the job of the assessor is to assure that “your property taxes are as low as possible.” This claim ignores the fact that the assessor cannot control the total property taxes paid by county residents. The total tax levy is set by the budgets of the tax districts, and state laws governing how tax-district levies can change each year.

In 2009, a quarter of the county was slammed with large assessment and tax increases; the remaining three quarters saw tax drops, because that is how the math described above works. The result, generally seen to be unfair, was due to rising property values in 2006-08 and to the county’s policy, common in rural Washington, of revaluing parcels in a four-year rotation. In short, 2009 felt the full force of the real estate bubble that had just popped.

The assessor’s office must bend over backwards to ensure that it does not unfairly raise or lower the assessment of individual tax parcels. People operating with limited information will make mistakes, but in recent years the office has conscientiously helped disgruntled taxpayers appeal their assessments. Now the county is moving to an annual revaluation of all property. This change should prevent a repeat of the 2009 debacle. So if now we are protected from a repeat of 2009, why would we want our property assessments and taxes managed by someone who promises to lower your taxes without acknowledging that her ability to do so is bounded by the total tax levy, which is outside her control?


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