Engrossed substitute Senate Bill 5160 passed by the state Legislature this last session changed and amended a couple of the requirements for property owners receiving or applying for a senior/disabled property tax exemption.

The residency requirement has been changed to “principal place of residence occupied for more than nine months each calendar year by a person claiming an exemption under RCW 84.36.381.” Previously, the residency requirement had been “for more than six months.”

Persons who do not live in their principal residence in Pacific County for more than nine months will no longer qualify for the exemption. This will affect some snowbirds. If you have any questions about this change, please contact this office at one of the numbers below or 360-875-9300, ext. 2207, and ask to speak to Sheryl, the administrator of the program.

Every three years we audit the senior/disabled exemption program. If you are currently on the program you will be receiving a letter in February asking you to document your income and residency. Currently, the upper income level is $40,000 annually. Pensions, Social Security, annuities and all types of income are included in this.

“You raised my taxes” is a common refrain we hear in the assessor’s office, especially when the new valuation notices are sent out in June. In Washington the assessors’ offices across the state only set the assessed values used for property taxes, and calculate and limit the regular taxes levied (charged) by the various taxing districts and excess levies approved directly by the voters. The assessor’s office has nothing to do with amounts which are levied.

The regular taxing districts are holding public budget hearings this time of year to set their budgets and approve the amounts to be levied. No matter what the assessed value of the district is, the commissioners of the regular taxing districts are limited to levying no more than 1% plus any new construction amounts over the previous year. As an example, District XYZ levied $100,000 in 2019 and will be limited to levying $101,000 plus new construction (usually around another 0.5% for a total of $101,500). This is true even if the total assessed value of the district doubled or 50 new $300,000 homes were built. Excess levies for construction bonds or school Maintenance and Operation levies are approved by the voters, and limited to the amount approved by the voters. If you are concerned about the actual taxes being levied by a district, you should attend the district’s public meeting or talk to one of the commissioners of the district (county, city, fire, hospital, etc.)

If you have any questions about this article, the Senior Exemption program or any other property tax issue, or see a correction needed on our Taxsifter or Mapsifter websites, contact us at 360-875-9301, 642-9301, 484-7301 or 267-8301. Our office hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday at the Courthouse in South Bend and 9 a.m. to noon Wednesday only at the South County Annex at 7013 Sandridge Road in Long Beach.

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