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home : news : tribal land tax July 27, 2017

Feds sign off on Swinomish constitution
The United States Department of the Interior on Friday approved the constitutional amendments voted on and passed in May by members of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community.
Wednesday, July 12, 2017


Federal court favors county in tribal tax lawsuit
A federal judge has ruled that it is legal for public agencies to collect taxes from non-Indians who lease tribal land.
   For three years, this newspaper has been following a lawsuit in the U.S. Central District Court of California brought by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians against Riverside County. That case closed last week when U.S. District Judge Dolly M. Gee ruled in favor of the county and a local water agency that joined the suit as a defendant.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Swinomish constitution amendments approved
Swinomish Indian Tribal Community members approved the 29 proposed amendments to the tribal constitution, last week.
While tribal elections are private and generally do not stir controversy outside the reservation community, provisions pertaining to territory and jurisdiction in the amended constitution have inspired a flood of letters to the U.S. Department of Interior, which has until July to approve the document.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

A lively workshop on property rights and tribal governments
Controversial author and orator Elaine Willman held a workshop at Tequila Azteca Restaurant in Sedro-Woolley on Saturday, drawing about 80 people, mostly senior citizens, and a throng of protesters.
(4 comments)

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Agriculture group registers concern over tribal jurisdiction
Skagitonians to Preserve Farmland has expressed its concerns regarding wording in Swinomish Tribe’s proposed Constitution.
Members of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community are scheduled to vote on the tribe’s new governing document next week.
(1 comments)

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

County, Tesoro, seek federal assurance on tribal jurisdiction
Skagit County’s Board of Commissioners and the Tesoro refinery’s company headquarters in Texas both sent letters to the federal government in bids to shield private property from tribal expansion.
(1 comments)

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

County seeks clarification on tribal jurisdiction claims
An attorney with the Skagit County Prosecutor’s Office sent a letter to an attorney for the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community seeking clarification on jurisdiction the tribe claims in proposed changes to its tribal constitution.
An amendment to the Swinomish constitution states that the tribe will have jurisdiction “over all persons, subjects, property and activities occurring within … the Tribe’s usual and accustomed fishing grounds and stations and all open and unclaimed lands…”

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

BIA coming to Swinomish for tax consultation
The first in a series of eight “consultations” to be held by the Bureau of Indian Affairs on rules regarding business enterprises on reservation land will be held next Thursday at the Swinomish Casino and Lodge.
While the agency is seeking comment from tribes on a variety of elements as it ponders revisions to the “Traders With Indians” rule, the issue garnering the most attention among tribes and local governments involves taxes.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Swinomish reservation expansion plan draws county ire
Skagit County has objected to a request by the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community to turn an Anacortes gas station into reservation land.
Swinomish purchased the Shell gas station on Christianson Road in Anacortes for $1 million in May, according to county records. It is located across the street from the tribe’s Swinomish Links golf course and is more than a mile west of the Swinomish Reservation.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Swinomish angles for more jurisdiction
Skagit County Commissioners stepped into what appears to be a land dispute between two local Native American tribes and warned property owners that they could end up being annexed to the Swinomish Reservation.
At the same time, the commissioners filed an objection with the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs over the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community’s plans to amend its constitution — a move they claim could stretch its reservation boundaries across thousands of acres of privately owned land northwest of the current reservation.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Tribe seeks to eliminate federal oversight
The Swinomish Indian Tribal Community’s leadership wants to amend the tribe’s constitution so that its actions will no longer be subject to approval by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Did the state throw taxpayers to Great Wolf?

The Washington Department of Revenue says it asked the state’s 39 county assessors for comment as it crafted the property tax policy that hit La Conner residents so hard.

The state’s documentation of the process as it developed its response to the so-called Great Wolf Lodge decision shows assessors were never called in for meetings with state officials. But tribes were invited to send their representatives, mainly lawyers, to two sit-downs with state officials.


(1 comments)

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Tribal lawyers influenced state tax policy

Attorneys working for tribes, including some employed by the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, helped write a Washington State Department of Revenue’s guidance document that had a profound effect on local taxpayers.


Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Local tribes to receive cash infusion

Local Native American Tribes are set to receive portions of a nearly $1 billion settlement reached with the government in a class action lawsuit filed in 1990.


Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Eyes trained on school budget
About 30 people, including several who are not school employees, were poring over the La Conner School District budget again last Wednesday.
It was the second in a series of seven workshops for the public put together by school Finance Director Bonnie Haley, Superintendent Tim Bruce and senior administrator Peg Seeling, who will take the helm as interim superintendent in July.
At the workshop, people on both the “yes” and “no” sides of the levy peacefully sat side by side, working to familiarize themselves with the school funding process.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Political signs stolen in La Conner
Hand-lettered plywood signs set up by voters who are against the property tax levy proposed by La Conner Schools disappeared the day after they appeared.
Somebody stole all six “Vote No” signs that were set out last Monday.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Residents invited to help craft school budget before new levy vote
La Conner Schools officials plan to schedule public workshops on the upcoming school budget before voters decide the fate of a pared-down, second-try levy request.
School Finance Director Bonnie Haley said voters will be asked to approve a one-year levy of $995,000. Ballots will be mailed to registered voters on April 8 and counted on April 26.
(1 comments)

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

School district tries second bite at the apple
With two levies totaling close to $1.5 million rejected by voters this month, La Conner School District has shaved a half million and half the time off its request and will put it up for election again, the school board decided on Monday.
Wednesday, February 24, 2016

An agonizing decision for voters
La Conner School District is in a historic situation — school officials are campaigning furi-ously to convince people to vote in two levies totaling nearly $1.5 million.
For decades, La Conner residents have passed school bonds and levies in a landslide, with little more than a ballot question. Things are different this time, as ballots are mailed this week to some 3,500 voters. This time most of the voters are being asked to tax their neighbors, not themselves.
(2 comments)

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Meeting airs taxpayers' angst
About 50 people gathered at Maple Hall last week to hear La Conner Schools officials make the case for passing two levies totaling nearly $1.5 million in next month’s election.
Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Schools to seek two-year tax levy
In a special election on Feb. 9, La Conner Schools will ask voters to approve more than $1 million per year in taxes to be collected in 2017 and 2018.
Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Schools to ask voters for a new levy
The La Conner School Board met Monday and is expected to call for a special election in February to ask voters to approve more than $1 million in taxes to take effect in 2017.
Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Tribe and schools approve funding pact
The La Conner School Board on Monday signed the latest version of a school funding agreement with the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community.
The tribe has promised to contribute $400,000 to the schools to help ease a $789,000 shortfall created when 931 parcels were removed from the property tax rolls that feed schools and other public entities this year. 
For about a year, the terms of the tribal funding have been under negotiation.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Tribe, school get closer to funding pact

La Conner School officials say the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community has signed the agreement to provide $400,000 in funding to the schools.
But it wasn’t exactly the same as the one the school board signed last month.


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Deal signed for school funding from tribe
The La Conner School Board on Monday signed a proposed agreement with the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community outlining the details of the $400,000 funding contribution the tribe promised last December.
For months, school and tribal officials have been negotiating the terms of the gift. School Board President Rick Thompson said he was hopeful this final deal, brokered between school and tribal attorneys, would be approved by the Swinomish Indian Senate, which is expected to consider it next month.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Property values rise again - tax hikes probably not far behind
La Conner residents will soon receive notices from the Skagit County Assessor’s Office, outlining the change in assessed value of their property.
“We’ve certified the roll and expect the notices will be mailed Friday,” Assessor Dave Thomas said Tuesday.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Taxes a hot topic at school board meeting
Taxpayers at Monday’s La Conner School Board meeting took the trustees to task over the local tax disparity. 
After the so-called Great Wolf decision, the land that generates about two-thirds of the school enrollment in La Conner was taken off the property tax rolls this year. That left the remaining taxpayers shouldering the entire school levy burden — which is the biggest chunk of the local tax bills.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Taxpayers face long odds to detach from Fire District
With taxpayers on the east side of Swinomish Channel already circulating petitions seeking to break away from Fire District 13 to join Fire District 2, Skagit County officials had to hit the books to figure out what the process entails.
Residents detaching from a tax supported district in Skagit County hasn’t been done in so long nobody can remember it happening before. And according to one state lawmaker, doing so could take an act of the Legislature to make it possible.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Tax disparity leaves an unfair 'paying field' for fire service
Frustrated taxpayers on the east side of the Swinomish Channel threaten to break away from Fire District 13 to join Fire District 2 over costs imposed by higher property tax bills. 
Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Tax disparity leaves an unfair 'paying field' for fire service
Frustrated taxpayers on the east side of the Swinomish Channel threaten to break away from Fire District 13 to join Fire District 2 over costs imposed by higher property tax bills.
(1 comments)

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

More tribal issues to impact taxpayers
As the effects of the federal court decision making non-Indian structures on tribal land exempt from county and state taxes continue to impact La Conner area residents, taxpayers in the rest of the state could soon pay for the fallout of another tribal lawsuit.
Friday, August 07, 2015

Tax disparity prompts secession talk
A federal court ruling that exempted more than a third of the parcels in Fire District 13 from property tax has some taxpayers on the east side of Swinomish Channel wanting to switch fire districts.
Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Tribal land tax issue - Local lobbying effort starts to pay off
The La Conner School District is scheduled to receive another $775,000 from the state Capital budget, Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton, said on Monday.
Still, La Conner area taxpayers, some of whom saw their property tax bills jump by 25 percent this year, probably won’t see immediate relief from the higher school taxes shifted to them when homes in Shelter Bay and on Pull-&-Be-Damned Road were taken off the county tax rolls.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Tribal land tax issue: Town keeps pushing for taxpayer relief
La Conner has been hounding state and federal officials, and now the governmental gears seem to be starting to budge.
Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Tribal land tax issue - No let-up in the local lobbying effort
La Conner town and school officials continued hounding state and federal officials this week as some residents prepare to shell out up to 25 percent more in property taxes by the April 30 deadline.
(1 comments)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

La Conner tells federal lawmakers to fix tribal land tax problem

La Conner School District and town officials are scheduled to meet today with a representative from the office of U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, to lay the tax disparity caused by a 2013 federal court decision at the federal government’s feet.


(2 comments)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

La Conner lobbies state school chief
A delegation of school and town officials traveled to Olympia on Tuesday to let state Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn know La Conner needs help right now.
Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Tribal land tax bills coming
The Swinomish Indian Tribal Community expects to send out tax bills to homeowners on the 931 parcels removed from the county’s property tax rolls by the end of this month.
(1 comments)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Some County 'Valentines' will be shocking
In the La Conner area, some home owners are in for a nasty surprise when they get their property tax bills next week.
Many of the properties in the town of La Conner were reassessed. The new values, coupled with absorbing a portion of the burden left when 931 parcels on tribal land were taken off the tax rolls this year, have caused some tax bills to bounce up by 22 percent.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Tribal land tax exemption
Staff at the Skagit County Assessor’s Office worked through the holiday weekend to come up with the new levy rates for property taxes in the La Conner area.
Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Tribe to extend senior tax exemptions
Under its new Trust Improvement Use and Occupancy Tax Code, the Swinomish Senate has decided to adopt a policy granting tax exemptions to low-income seniors and disabled people.
Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Bah humbug! Big tax hike on the way
Here’s a lump of coal for the old Christmas stocking: The owners of at least 2,500 parcels in the La Conner area will see their property taxes take a leap in the new year.
(1 comments)

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

New Year likely to bring huge tax shift
With the 931 parcels coming off the La Conner area county tax rolls, taxpayers for the remaining 2,500 parcels in the La Conner School District and Fire District 13 could be left holding the bill for about $480,000 more in property taxes.
Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Deadline looms on property tax levy rates
The end of November, which is this Sunday, is the final day for taxing districts to submit their levy requests to the Skagit County Assessor. In the La Conner area, this year’s deadline is charging at county, agency and tribal officials at the speed of light and they must act quickly, or about two-thirds of the area’s taxpayers could be in for a nasty shock next year when their property tax bills arrive.
Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Tribe and agencies wrestle with taxing issues
The Swinomish Tribal Senate has pretty much put the kibosh on the possibility of tax refunds for the 931 La Conner area homeowners whose property is coming off the county tax rolls next year.
What hasn’t been finalized is the level of funding the public entities who rely on those tax revenues will receive in the future and how much of the tax burden could be shifted to the remaining property owners.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Swinomish taxing authority codified
The Swinomish Indian Senate has adopted a formal tax code aimed at eliminating the possibility of refunds for the 931 parcels coming off the county’s tax rolls.
A federal court decision exempting all structures on tribal land from property taxes opened the possibility that homeowners on leased tribal land in Shelter Bay and in the Pull & be Damned Road neighborhood could seek up to three years of property tax refunds.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Swinomish quashes property tax refunds
Although a federal court ruling made 931 La Conner area properties on tribal land exempt from county property tax, on Tuesday the Swinomish Indian Senate decided to take action preventing tax refunds to homeowners on leased tribal land.
Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Taxing questions outnumber answers so far
With 931 La Conner area parcels coming off the property tax rolls, people are wondering what their tax bills will look like in 2015.
Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Tax decisions eliminate some, but not all uncertainty
kagit County Assessor Don Munks declared that most of the homes in Shelter Bay and in the Pull and Be Damned Road neighborhood will be removed from the 2015 tax rolls.
At the same time, the Swino-mish Indian Senate reached a consensus that there will be a property tax on those homes levied by the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community and the Senate established a committee to work out the details.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

BREAKING: Swinomish Tribal Senate to establish property tax
The Swinomish Tribal Senate has announced that it will adopt a property tax law that applies to leased tribal trust land.
(3 comments)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Tax immunity hands funding dilemma to tribe
With 931 parcels coming off the county’s property tax rolls next year, the financial state of the La Conner School District and Fire District 13 and hundreds of taxpayers rest in the hands of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community Senate.
On Tuesday, the Skagit County Board of Commissioners directed the County Assessor “not to break the law.” To that end, Munks said his office has removed from the county’s 2015 tax rolls all homes and other structures that were built on leased land that is held in trust by the government for the Swinomish Tribe.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Tax uncertainty is taxing for everyone
Agencies and taxpayers are nervous over the financial impacts of a federal court ruling that makes most of the properties in Shelter Bay and on Pull & Be Damned Road exempt from property taxes.
If the 931 homeowners homeowners sue to have up to three years of property taxes refunded, the agencies and smaller pool of taxpayers left to fund them could be stuck with a $5 million bill.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Big hit for taxpayers and agencies they fund
The Skagit County Assessor’s Office figures show the federal court’s tribal land tax ruling would hit La Conner worse than originally thought: There will be a total of 931 properties taken off the tax rolls with a combined value of about $138 million. When properties come off the tax rolls, the tax burden automatically shifts to the remaining taxpayers. A home assessed at $250,000 will pay about $500 more per year in property taxes.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

County and Feds wrestle with tribal land tax issue

The federal court ruling that made at least 1,000 La Conner area homes exempt from property taxes is in the hands of lawyers.
County officials have said the affected properties will be removed from the 2015 tax rolls.
Meanwhile, the county is advising residents whose homes are on leased tribal land to pay their taxes this year.  The second half of the 2014 property tax is due Oct. 31.


(1 comments)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Hundreds of local homes now tax-exempt
Skagit County agencies face huge revenue losses resulting from a federal court ruling that eliminates property tax for every building on tribal land. That means most of the approximately 900 homes in Shelter Bay, a gated community built on leased land that the federal government holds in trust for the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, are now exempt from property taxes.
Wednesday, August 06, 2014


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