There’s no sugar-coating it, property tax bills will be bigger this year. Taxes on the average home will rise by 4% to 9% in Puyallup, Edgewood, Steilacoom and DuPont. And they’re the lucky ones.
The rest of Pierce County will see double-digit increases, with the highest around 20% in Lakewood, University Place, Parkland-Spanaway and Fircrest. Tacoma and Gig Harbor taxes will each go up an average of 14%.
County Assessor-Treasurer Mike Lonergan explains that the sharp increase is primarily a result of two factors: actions by the state Legislature in its continued response to the McCleary school funding case and votes by local citizens 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.”
In addition to these legislative actions, 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 such as a city or the County can only go up 1% each year, plus the tax resulting from new construction. In fact, most property tax bills in Pierce County actually decreased 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 at piercecountywa.gov/atr beginning Feb. 1. The first half payment is due no later than April 30, with the balance due by Nov. 2.
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.
Mike Lonergan, Assessor-Treasurer