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Local levy taxes for schools decrease in 2019

Property tax bills were mailed to Snohomish County residents on Feb. 14. The amount of your property tax bill is based upon the costs of your state and local government and voter approved levies. This includes the operating costs of your schools, city, county and taxing districts such as hospital, fire and sewer districts. In Lake Stevens, property owners will see a reduction in the local taxes they pay to fund Lake Stevens School District’s Enrichment Levy—formerly known as the Maintenance and Operations, or M&O, Levy.

Tax rate comparison for 2018 and 2019
In 2019, Lake Stevens School District is collecting significantly less for local levy taxes than in 2018. (Click image to enlarge.)

The owner of a $337,000 home will see an average savings of $200 for the 2019 Enrichment Levy over what they paid in 2018 for the M&O Levy. The owner of a $616,000 home will see a savings of nearly $400.

The Snohomish County Assessor’s Office has an online property Tax Distribution Tool where homeowners can review and compare their taxes over the past three years,

“When our Board of Directors set the levy amount, they were very intentional in selecting an amount that was less than what our community was currently paying, knowing that the state increased the amount collected for schools in 2018,” said Dr. Amy Beth Cook, Superintendent of Lake Stevens School District. “Even with the changes in school funding, our levy rates have been consistently stable or have decreased over time. We work very hard to be fiscally prudent and we appreciate our community’s longstanding history of supporting its schools.”

A change in school funding
On property tax bills, property owners will see a line item for “State” taxes. These taxes were approved in 2017 by the Washington State Legislature, increasing the amount of funding the state provides to schools and reducing the amount of local taxes school districts can request and collect. This property tax shift changed how school districts received their funding, but did not change why local levies are needed. School districts have no control over how these tax rates were established.

“The state’s new funding model was intended to be a step in the right direction, but it did not meet its objective to fully fund basic education,” said Dr. Cook. “The property tax shift came with restrictions that reduce local control of funds. The basic education programs and services we currently offer are not fully funded by the state. To make up for that shortfall—and to continue to provide the programs and services our students and community deserve—we are forced to use local funds to supplement some of our basic education programs and Special Education services. If the state continues with its current funding model, the continued need for local levies will grow.”

How property taxes are established
Each property owner pays a different amount of taxes because the assessed value for each property is different. In 2019, the assessed value for many Lake Stevens homeowners increased. This impacts the amount of taxes due. Lake Stevens School District can only collect the amount approved by voters—no matter how much assessed values increase. As more people move into the Lake Stevens School District boundary, more property owners contribute to the total levy amount.

You can learn more about property taxes on the Snohomish County Assessor’s website.