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March 20, 2018

2/14/2018 10:53:00 AM
Big tax hikes

Homeowners in La Conner School District could be in for sticker shock when property tax bills come in the mail this month.
Increased state school tax coupled with a local tax disparity created by unelected state bureaucrats and tribal lawyers four years ago will hit some people hard again.
The school district, which includes the Swinomish Reservation, draws about two thirds of its students from tribal land that the district and state do not tax. The majority of registered voters in the district pay no school tax, but last February they helped pass the school levy other people must pay.
While government land held in trust for tribes has never been taxed, the county used to tax homes owned by non-tribal members in Shelter Bay and in the Pull & Be Damned Road neighborhood. The tax was based on the value of the structures, not the leased reservation land under them.
That changed in 2015, when a directive issued by the State Department of Revenue – crafted with help from tribal lawyers – prompted the Skagit County Assessor to take 931 homes built on leased reservation land off the county tax rolls.
In 2015 the tax burden from structures on that land was shifted to remaining taxpayers on privately owned, or “fee simple” land. Some homeowners saw their taxes jump by more than 20 percent. It cost some families more than a month’s worth of groceries.
Now it’s happening again with the new local school levy kicking in and the higher state school tax.
My little house in the modest income “south end” of town will get a tax bill 44 percent higher than it was before the lawyers and bureaucrats rigged the system. And we have neighbors whose bill will be 58 percent higher than the one they paid four years ago.
Sandy Stokes
La Conner

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