Local taxing districts will get increased assessment revenues

Photo by Marcy Stamper
New construction in the Methow Valley accounted for more than a third of the value of new building across the county.

By Marcy Stamper

Okanogan County Fire District 6 and the towns of Twisp and Winthrop will get a bonus in property taxes from the almost $15.9 million worth of new construction in the Methow Valley in the past year.

As in most years, new construction within the Methow Valley School District led the county, accounting for 36 percent of the total of all new building.

The value of construction in the Methow is typically one-and-a-half to two times the amount added in other school districts.

Overall, Okanogan County recorded $43.6 million in new construction in the 2017 assessment, which lowers the tax rate for all taxpayers because the total amount the county can collect in property tax remains flat, according to Okanogan County Chief Deputy Assessor Dee Wood.

The higher value of construction in the Methow is attributable primarily to the quality of construction, with many second homes being built by people with considerable financial resources, said Wood. In the Okanogan Valley, it’s more common to see smaller, single-family homes, she said.

The assessor calculates all totals by school district. In 2015, the Methow accounted for 28 percent of the county total. Last year, it reached 45 percent.

The new assessments provide additional revenue to individual taxing districts, such as fire and EMS, and to the towns. For example, Fire District 6 will collect an extra $8,000 in taxes this year (on top of the standard annual 1-percent increase allowed by law) because of new construction in the Methow last year, said Wood. The Town of Twisp will receive $7,000 and Winthrop will get $2,700, based on new building in the towns, said Wood.

Lower values elsewhere

Building in the Methow added more than twice the value of construction in other school districts. Brewster came in second with $7.4 million (17 percent of the county total), Omak recorded $5.6 million (13 percent) and Tonasket had $4.6 million (11 percent). Okanogan and Oroville both recorded about $2.6 million, or 6 percent of the total, followed by Pateros with $2.3 million (5 percent) and Coulee Dam with $633,400 (1.5 percent).

The value of new construction in the county — which includes new residential and commercial buildings that are 50-percent complete — was almost $2.8 million more than last year’s. The total includes new buildings that have been dried in for winter, as well as additions to existing structures and garages added in the 12-month period ending July 31.

The proportion of residential building in the county dropped slightly this year, going from 90 percent in 2016 to 88 percent this year, with a slight uptick in commercial construction.

While new construction in the past six years has fluctuated, the overall spread, at just $10 million, has not been substantial. Since 2012, last year saw the smallest growth, at $40.7 million, and 2015 was the highest, at $50.6 million.

Since 1993, the four highest values were recorded from 2006 through 2009. The six lowest years were from 1993 through 2000, when new construction totaled from $15.7 million to $32.7 million.

The only times in more than two decades when the Methow didn’t lead the county in the value of new construction were in 2010 and 2012, when residential building on Lake Osoyoos, and two industrial projects, the Buckhorn Mine and a wood-product facility, caused Oroville to surpass the Methow Valley, according to Okanogan County Assessor Scott Furman.

The valuations of new construction are determined by the four real estate appraisers in the Okanogan County assessor’s office, who physically inspect all new building every year and add the value to the tax rolls.

The appraisers use a nationally standardized list of values for architecture, building size, materials, and number and type of windows. They calculate only the replacement cost of the structure and do not include intangibles such as location, water access or view, said Furman.

All property owners who have had new construction valued by the county will receive a notice from the assessor by the end of August. The changes will be reflected in property taxes paid in 2018.

For more information, call the assessor’s office at (509) 422-7190.