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June 19, 2019

1/21/2015 8:31:00 AM
Tribal land tax exemption
Taxing numbers

These are the estimated levy rates for the 2015 La Conner area property tax bills, based on this year’s assessed valuations. The numbers are preliminary
The levy rates are not expected to be certified until next week. They still have to be reviewed by the County Assessor and County Treasurer and checked for accuracy.
Here are the 2014 tax rates per $1,000 in assessed value for affected communities, and the new estimated rates.
Town of La Conner:
Old rate $13.25; new rate $14.13
Unincorporated areas east of the channel:
Old rate $13.36; new rate $14.50
Swinomish reservation fee simple:
Old rate $13.16; new rate $14.28

Sandy Stokes

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.
Under the state’s property tax calendar schedule, the levies were to be finished and provided to the County Treasurer by last Thursday, Jan. 15.
But they weren’t.
Removing 931 parcels from the tax rolls in the La Conner School District threw a big wrench into the system, and the Assessor’s Office had to stretch the deadline.
On Tuesday, “I think we’re real close,” said County Assessor Dave Thomas. He was able to release preliminary numbers his staff has compiled so that residents can get a rough idea of what their coming tax bills will look like.
Most property owners in the La Conner School District will pay hundreds of dollars more this year in property tax, because the tax bills from the now exempt homes in Shelter Bay and in the Pull and Be Damned Road areas will be spread among the remaining taxpayers.
But that doesn’t mean residents whose homes are on reservation land leased from the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community get off tax free — the Swinomish Senate has said it will levy its own tax on those properties at the same rate it taxes “fee simple,” or privately owned, land within the reservation boundaries.
But much of the tribal taxes will go toward tribal government services.
Although the tribe has pledged to provide funding for the school district and Fire District 13 and the La Conner Library this year, the tribal contribution does not fill the funding gap left by the now tax exempt properties.
So property taxes will soar for everyone in the La Conner area. Hardest hit will be property owners in unincorporated areas including Pleasant Ridge and Channel Drive on the east side of the Swinomish Channel – their taxes will go up and estimated $1.14 per $1,000 in assessed value since they’re picking up the school and fire district tax burdens.
This taxing issue is the result of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in July 2013 that all buildings on land held in trust by the federal government for tribes are immune from state and county taxes, regardless of who owns them. This was a Thurston County case, and the window to appeal the ruling expired last summer.
Shelter Bay was developed on leased reservation land in the 1960s and homes there have been subject to personal property taxes, which generated about $1.8 million last year in money that supports the schools and other public services.
Although it’s taking longer to finalize the levy rates this year, the 2014 property tax bills will come in the mail around Valentine’s Day, like they do every year, said County Treasurer Katie Jungquist. “That’s our goal, to hit them on Valentine’s Day,” she teased.
Once the numbers are set, it just takes a few days to get the bills out, she said.

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