More than one-fourth of value added is in the Methow Valley
By Marcy Stamper
New construction in Okanogan County in the past year has been increasing fairly steadily since the most recent low five years ago, but the almost $51 million in new value is still just a little more than half of the peak recorded in 2008.
As in most years, the Methow Valley School District accounted for the highest value in new construction, with 28 percent of the total — more than $14 million — according to figures released by Okanogan County Assessor Scott Furman.
The Tonasket and Pateros school districts were next, with 17 and 16 percent of the total, respectively. Building in Brewster contributed 12 percent, Omak had 11 percent, Okanogan had 8 percent, and Oroville had 7 percent. All totals are compiled by school district.
Compared to recent years when commercial construction added a bigger share, in 2015 only 5 percent of new building was commercial. Last year 13 percent was commercial and significant business and retail development in 2013 pushed that amount to 29 percent of total value, according to Furman.
While nowhere near the 2008 peak of $88.6 million, the value added in 2015 is the sixth-highest in the past 24 years, according to the assessor. The low point was 1996, with just $15.7 million recorded.
The value of new construction helps offset the $31 million loss in value from structures burned in the Carlton Complex Fire, in particular because many of the homes that burned in the Pateros School District — which lost 20 percent of its tax base — are being rebuilt, said Furman.
As of the end of this June, the Okanogan County Building Department had issued 67 permits for single-family residences to replace homes lost in the fire, plus 27 manufactured homes, according to department records. One-third of the permits were for houses in Pateros and one-third in Brewster.
The Building Department also issued permits for 43 garages and outbuildings. Only those structures at least 50 percent complete by the end of July — that is, “dried in” for winter, with a roof, walls, windows and doors, are included in the new valuation.
Preliminary estimates for structure losses in this year’s Okanogan Complex Fire are $10.9 million, which includes both homes and outbuildings, according to Furman. The assessor’s office has not completed its review of damage to land, particularly since some areas are still burning and inaccessible, he said.
Furman said the Omak School District — affected by the Lime Belt and Tunk Valley fires — will probably see the biggest impact from structure losses this year. The assessor’s office will also reduce land values on burned land — by 50 percent on timbered land, and by 25 percent on non-timbered land. While the Okanogan Complex Fire burned more acreage than last year’s wildfire, overall, the areas were less developed, said Furman.
The Okanogan County assessor’s office physically inspects all new construction every year — everything from new houses to garages to additions — and adds 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 later this year. Adding the value of these structures to the county’s tax rolls helps lessen the property-tax burden for other taxpayers, since the total amount of tax is split up among all property owners based on the value of their property and improvements. The changes will be reflected in property taxes paid in 2016.
For more information, call the assessor’s office at (509) 422-7190.