Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions
  Dear Property Owner,
Over the past five years, we have experienced some the most dramatic economic changes in the history of our nation, state, and county. A component of that change has been a widespread decline in the real estate market. We have prepared the following questions and answers in anticipation that when you review your value notice this year, you will have questions about the value we have placed on your property. We have grouped these questions and answers  into three areas:
  • Notices of value
  • The work we do in our office
  • Taxes and levies
If your questions remain unanswered, please call our office at (509) 427-3720. Gabe P Spencer Skamania County Assessor
Questions & Answers about your property value notice
  1. Why are notices of value mailed to property owners?
  2. What if there was no change in my value?
  3. I don’t remember getting a notice of value last year?
  4. I couldn’t sell my property today for the value you set. What’s the deal?
  5. How do I know I’m paying only my fair share?
  6. Are there limits on how much a property’s assessed value can change?
  7. If property values have no limit, what protects property owners from limitless taxes?
  8. Is there a place where I can look up sales of property similar to mine?
  9. Are there programs that can lower my property value and taxes?
  10. If I don’t qualify for an exemption, are there other programs that    can  help me with my taxes?
  11. Where do I go if I disagree with the value you assigned to my property? 
  12. Where can I get additional information?
1. Why are notices of value mailed to property owners? County assessors are required to annually determine the full (100%) market value of all taxable property in the county and to notify property owners of any changes from the previous year. Notices mailed in May 2010, show a property’s market value on January 1, 2010 Using sales data from 2009-08-07. This value will be used to calculate 2011 property taxes. 2. What if there was no change in my value? If your parcel lies within our physical inspection area you will receive a new notice of value regardless of the change of value. 3. I don’t remember getting a notice of value last year? If your assessment remains unchanged and you were not visited by our staff during our physical inspection period, you will not receive a notice of change of value. Our staff inspects one-fifth of the county each year. 4. How long is my appeal period? The date used to value your property is January 1, 2011. Your appeal period is 30 days from the date the notice was mailed, or by July 1st whichever is greater. 5. I couldn’t sell my property today for the value you set. What’s the deal? All property values in the state are established on the same date each year: January 1st. The values listed on the notices mailed in May 2010 were established as of January 1, 2010. They are based on sales of similar properties during 2009-08-07. Market values have changed since that time. The price you can sell your property for today may be higher or lower than your assessed value on January 1, 2010. 6. How do I know I’m paying only my fair share? The “snapshot” of values taken on January 1st determines the portion of the tax bill each property owner will pay. Since all properties in the county are assessed on the same date, the share of taxes to be paid remains the same until all properties are valued again next January 1st. 7. Are there limits on how much a property’s assessed value can change? No. There are no limits on increases or decreases in assessed property values. This value is based on the requirement that assessed values be established at 100% of market value on January 1st. While assessed values remain the same until the next year, market values continue to fluctuate throughout the year. 8. If property values have no limit, what protects property owners from limitless taxes? Your taxes are calculated based on the budgets submitted by jurisdictions that provide you services. These budgets are prepared independently from property values and are limited to a 1% increase from one year to the next. This limit does not apply to taxes from voter-approved bonds and special levies. Property values determine the share of these budgets that individual property owners will pay. 9. Is there a place where I can look up sales of property similar to mine? Sales information is available on the county’s web site at www.skamaniacounty.org/assessor: • Select “Tax parcel search.” • Enter your sales criteria and press “search.” • Select from the resulting list by clicking on the “Assessor information” tab 10. Are there programs that can lower my property value and taxes? There are special programs that can reduce the taxable value of property for qualifying seniors, disabled persons, and lands in farm and forest production. Additional information about these programs can be found on the county web site at www.skamaniacounty.org/assessor. 11. If I don’t qualify for an exemption, are there other programs that can help me with my taxes? There is a property tax deferral program that is available to qualifying seniors and disabled persons whose household income is $40,000 or less. There is a property tax deferral program for all homeowners with a household income of $57,000 or less. Additional information about these programs may be obtained by contacting the Department of Assessment and GIS or by visiting our web site at www.skamaniacounty.org/assessor. 12. Where do I go if I disagree with the value you assigned to my property? Property owners are encouraged to talk with a county appraiser to verify that our assessment records are accurate. Errors may be corrected without a hearing. You may appeal the value we have placed on your property to the Skamania County Board of Equalization. Information about the appeals process and appeal forms are available on the BOE web site at www.skamaniacounty.org, or by contacting the Clerk of the Board at (509) 427-3705. 13. Where can I get additional information? • You can visit our web site at www.skamaniacounty.org/assessor. • You can visit our offices on the first floor of the Skamania County Courthouse, 240 NE Vancouver Ave, Stevenson, Wa 98648. • You can call us at (509) 427-3720. • Skamania County Assessor Gabe Spencer is available to speak at neighborhood meetings and to business groups.
Questions & Answers about the department and its operation
  1. What are the responsibilities of the Department of Assessment and GIS?
  2. Who do I contact with questions about property values and taxes?
  3. What is the Board of Equalization?
  4. When do I file the BOE petition?
  5. How is an appeal processed?
  6. Why do I have a "previous value" on my notice of value?
  7. What does GIS mean?
  8. How do I contact the Department of Assessment & GIS?
1. What are the responsibilities of the Department of Assessment and GIS? The Department of Assessment and GIS operates under the authority of Washington law and the state constitution. The department must:
  • Process property ownership changes
  • Maintain parcel boundary maps
  • Maintain building and property characteristics
  • Administer programs for tax relief
  • Analyze market data for property values
  • Uniformly assess property at 100% of market value
2. Who do I contact with questions about property values and taxes? If you have questions about the value or the characteristics of your property, please call one of our appraisers at (509) 427-3720. In-person meetings are always welcomed. If you have questions about the taxes on your property, please call the Treasurer’s Office at (509) 427-3757. If you want to appeal your value, please call the Skamania County Board of Equalization at (509) 427-3705. 3. What is the Board of Equalization? The Board of Equalization is an impartial citizen board that hears property value disputes and sets the assessed value. You may print the necessary forms from our website at www.skamaniacounty.org/assessor. 4. When do I file the BOE petition? Petitions must be filed with the BOE within 30 days after your notice of value was mailed. To protect your right to appeal, we recommend you file a petition while working with an appraiser. If you are satisfied with the results of your work with the appraiser, the petition may be withdrawn. 5. How is an appeal processed? After filing a timely appeal, one of our appraisers from the Department of Assessment and GIS will examine the appraisal and review your petition to make a final determination. If you still disagree, a hearing before the Board of Equalization will be scheduled. The board reviews sales evidence submitted by you and the appraiser, and sets a final value.. 6. What does GIS mean? GIS is an acronym for Geographic Information System. GIS is a computer-based mapping and geographic analysis system operated by the department. The services and products they provide are available to the public and to government entities in the region. 7. How do I contact the Department of Assessment & GIS? Our office is open from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday- Thursday. You can call us anytime at (509) 427-3720, or e-mail us at spencer@co.skamania.wa.us or visit our office on the first floor of the Skamania County Courthouse, 240 NE Vancouver Ave Stevenson, WA. Our mailing address is Skamania County Department of Assessment & GIS, P.O. Box 790, Stevenson, WA 98648.
Questions & Answers about property taxes and statements
  1. Why are the change of value statements different this year?
  2. Is this a state or a local property tax?
  3. Who determines the amount of our property taxes?
  4. What is the difference between a property tax levy and a property tax levy rate?
  5. Are there any limits on property taxes?
  6. Is there a limit on my individual property tax?
  7. Why have my property taxes increased?
  8. What impact do special levies and bonds have on property taxes?
  9. How are levy rates computed?
10.  How are taxes computed? 11.  Where can I go to get more information about levy rates and property values? 12.  Where can I go to get more information about my tax statement? 1. Why are the Change of Value statements different this year? We have opted for a more descriptive statement in order to help people recognize which property is being referred to. We also have gone back to enveloped notices to help protect your privacy. 2. Is this a state or a local property tax? It’s both. The state receives a share of the property tax for funding local schools statewide. The remaining share of the property tax is distributed among 22 different taxing districts in Skamania County. These local taxing districts include fire districts, school districts, port districts, cities, and the county, among others. 3. Who determines the amount of our property taxes? The rules and procedures for property taxes are governed by the state to ensure consistency and equity statewide. Following these rules and procedures, the county assessor sets property values and the county treasurer collects property taxes. The amount of money to be collected in property taxes is determined by the individual taxing districts. These amounts are subject to both individual and aggregate limits established by the state. 4. What is the difference between a property tax levy and a property tax levy rate? A property tax levy refers to an amount of money that is collected or “levied” against taxable property. A property tax levy rate is the amount of money for every $1,000 of assessed property value necessary to generate the levy amount. Each taxing district has its own levy and levy rate. The taxes you pay are a combination of the levy rates of all the overlapping taxing districts your property is within, multiplied by your assessed property value. 5. Are there any limits on property taxes? Yes. Washington’s property tax system has several built-in limitations.
  • Each taxing district has a maximum levy rate it may collect. This levy rate may be exceeded only when authorized by the voters of the district. For example, the county’s maximum rate is $1.80 per thousand dollars of assessed value.
  • There is also a limit on the combined levy rate for all non-voted levies within an area. For example, the combined levy rate limit for all local taxing districts, exclusive of the state, is $5.90 per thousand dollars of assessed value.
  • The Washington Constitution limits the total of all regular non-voted levies to 1% of the property’s assessed value.
  • The most recent and highly-publicized limitation is the 1% cap on the annual growth in property tax budgets. An important distinction is that the 1% cap is on a jurisdiction’s property tax budget, not on taxes for individual properties.
6. Is there a limit on my individual property tax? Individual and aggregate limits on levy rates, as well as the constitutional 1% levy limit, apply to individual properties. If one or a group of properties exceed these limits without voter approval, the levy rate will be reduced in each taxing districts until the limits are no longer exceeded. The order of reduction is prescribed by statute. 7. Why have my property taxes increased? It seems intuitive that when property values go up, taxes will go up; and when property values go down, taxes will go down. Actually, the taxes you pay are determined by the taxing districts that provide you services, such as fire and police protection, schools, parks, and roads. When the costs of providing these services go up, so do the budgets of the taxing district…but not beyond the 1% growth allowed. Another reason your property taxes may have increased is that your portion of the taxes collected has gone up. That is, you are paying a greater share of the taxes than you did in the previous year. This is caused by some properties changing values at a different rate or in a different direction than others. 8. What impact do special levies and bonds have on property taxes? Voter-approved special levies and bonds can have a significant influence on property taxes. These bonds and levies can make up 20% to 40% of a typical combined levy rate and tax bill. Since they are voter-approved, they are not subject to the same limits as regular property tax levies, rates, and budgets. If a new levy is approved by voters, levy rates and taxes can rise dramatically. Conversely, if a levy fails, rates and taxes can drop significantly. 9. How are levy rates computed? The formula for computing taxes and levy rates is a product of each taxing district’s budget divided by the total assessed value of the geographic area the district serves. This produces a levy rate, which is the amount of taxes that will be paid for each $1,000 of assessed value. The formula for determining a taxing district’s levy rate looks like this: Taxing District Budget (limited to 1% growth) ÷ Taxing District Assessed Value = Levy Rate In reviewing the formula, you will note that when assessed values rise and the taxing district budget is a fixed amount, the levy rate decreases. When assessed values fall and the taxing district budget is a fixed amount, the levy rate increases. In both cases, the levy rate is adjusted to generate adequate revenues to fund the taxing district’s budget. 10. How are taxes computed? Once the levy rates are established, the rate for the area in which a property resides is multiplied by the value of that individual property to establish the taxes owed. The formula for determining individual property taxes looks like this: Property Assessed Value (divided by 1,000) x Levy Rate = Property Tax The overall value of the taxing district may be reduced, even though some of the individual properties are not. This overall reduction causes the levy rate to increase, and for the individual property owner whose value did not change, taxes will increase. 11. Where can I go to get more information about levy rates and property values? Additional information about these programs can be found on the county web site at www.skamaniacounty.org/assessor. Skamania County Assessor Gabe Spencer is available to speak at neighborhood meetings and to business groups. You can call us at (509) 427-3720. 12. Where can I go to get more information about my tax statement? Additional information about these programs can be found on the county web site at www.skamaniacounty.org/treasurer. You may call the Skamania County Treasurer’s Office at (509) 427-3757.