Like most of you, I got my yearly Valentine’s Day present: My property tax for 2016 is up 25.2 percent from last year, and I’m not too happy. To top it off, the Madison Park Community Council (MPCC) announced that it was thinking about yearly dues.
The timing of these two events was not deliberate, but in my view, enough is enough. Not everyone can afford these increased taxes on homes that they owned for years. We, the voters, will have two more chances this November to vote to increase our property taxes — namely Sound Transit’s ST3 and a levy to provide housing support for the homeless.
The current property taxing method uses the land as the determining factor in the value of the property in the eyes of King County. I know of some cases where the land is worth upward of $900,000, and the building is worth less than $20,000. It is very difficult to appeal one’s property tax today given this method.
In the past, the physical house was compared to others, and one could appeal based on comparables. The opportunity to appeal today is limited. In one case, the county claimed that I had a view, and I had them come out to show me. The view had disappeared due to trees obstructing the view.
Senior citizens and disabled people can qualify for tax relief only if their income is less than $35,000. I know of no way that anyone can live on that amount of money, especially in Madison Park and Washington Park. The Washington state Legislature determines this income level, and it has not been increased in years.
I fully understand that the increased property tax is due to the levies that we added by voting for measures such as Move Seattle. New levies may increase this amount again next year. I need to ask how long can we keep using the property tax as a funding source, especially for those on fixed income.
We had to vote for school funding since our Washington state Legislature has been unable to fulfill the state constitutional mandate to fund schools. The state Legislature is under a state Supreme Court order to fund our schools!
Seattle Mayor Murray wants to raise the housing levy to $290 million for seven years to deal with the homelessness problem in Seattle. It would cost a Seattle homeowner (with a median home value of $480,000) about $122 in taxes per year. And now the mayor is talking about additional taxes to increase the size of the police force!
ST3 is expected to be on the ballot this fall. The $20 billion plan would create light rail lines to Everett, Redmond, Kirkland, Eastgate, Federal Way, Tacoma, Ballard and West Seattle. The measure would cost households, on average, nearly $400 in yearly property, car-tab and sales-tax increases.
The property-tax issues have been a very hotly discussed topic on Nextdoor, with almost 300 responses in a short period. We have a problem when we at the local level need to take over funding for schools, transportation and homelessness from the state and federal governments. I don’t have a solution, but hopefully, you will require our elected officials to come up with a solution.
I know that the people of Seattle have rarely said no to a funding levy, but I believe that will end sooner or later since the property tax is not the solution any longer to the funding problem. We the voters should have the final say about taxing ourselves. The system needs to be equitable and fair, while taking into account those on fixed income. Taxing people out of their homes is not a funding solution.
The following is a quote from the MPCC in the March issue of the Madison Park Times: “On the funding issue, we are in contact with the surrounding community councils. It is interesting to note that the Laurelhurst Community Club (not to be confused with the Laurelhurst Beach Club) requests an annual “membership” fee from its area residents… Many households actually contribute $100 per year, and, of course, some much more. It is very much a voluntary system, but it does report an average of more than 40-percent participation. Should we institute something similar?”
It is unfortunate that this funding proposal did not include any suggestions for the monies raised, and the MPCC shouldn’t expect to get a blank check from our community. I encourage the residents of Madison Park, Washington Park, Broadmoor and Denny-Blaine (which comprise MPCC) to discuss this proposal and to suggest how these added funds will be used in our neighborhood.
There also is a question whether the business dues should be applied to home businesses, too. This funding effort at a 40-percent participation rate could raise well more than $100,000. The extra funding for road and pedestrian safety would be great, but shouldn’t this funding come from the city or state?
The residents represented by MPCC must be involved, just like the voters, and MPCC needs to be accountable and communicate just like our elected officials need to do.
Reg Newbeck is a Madison Park resident.