Waterfront property owners will notice most increase
OKANOGAN – The new assessment of property within the Oroville School District is complete and while most won’t notice much of an increase, those with lakefront property will see taxes rise, according to Okanogan County Assessor Scott Furman.
“We used to be cyclical, doing assessments every four years,” said Furman. “Now we are doing them annually and doing a physical assessment of one-sixth of the county every year, while the other five parts we compare sales value to assessment values.”
The one-sixth this year was the Oroville School District, according to Furman, who adds that the new assessments will be mailed out to about 1500 property owners on May 31.
“These are for the effective taxes to paid in 2014. People have 30 days to appeal if they chose to do so, but we encourage people to contact our office at (509) 422-7190 first,” the assessor said.
Furman said for the most part property owners within the Oroville School District will see tax assessments similar to those from last year.
“On Osoyoos or Palmer lakefront property is more likely to have increased because people are still buying land on the water and continue to pay higher prices,” he said. “Otherwise for the most part there shouldn’t be much change.”
The county is divided into neighborhoods and everyone’s assessment can go up or down depending on that neighborhood, explained Furman.
“We track what property sells for and the state did a ratio study and said we were within 92.6 percent. What that tells me most is that we are assessing at what properties are selling for. So if the state said we were 80 percent, then we would need to raise the assessments… if they said it was 120 percent it tells me we need to lower assessments.”
That was proved out when the assessments in the Oroville area were lowered 10 percent across the board a few years back.
He reminds taxpayers that Kinross still has plans to shut down operations at the Buckhorn Mountain gold mine in 2015.
“Last year was the high water mark at $175 million, this year it is about $110 million based on them starting to wrap up operations,” Furman said. “There is about $350 million in assessed valuation in the county and the mine represents about a third of that.”
The assessor said the west side of the state was starting to see the market increase for property sales. He added that he felt Okanogan County was on the verge of the market taking off, but hasn’t seen it yet.
“Like the west side Chelan County and Douglas County are starting to see some increases as well and we’re usually right behind them,” he said.
The county is just now starting the process of assessing new construction and that it is “trending up after bottoming out in 2009,” according to the assessor. Some of the new construction in the county includes the Big R Store and the FedEx shipping facility in Omak.
“There’s been nothing earth shattering though… it’s more like the trend you normally see with improvements in the economy,” he said.
The county is also starting to update the open space tax rate, which is a lower rate for agricultural property as defined by state law. He said the rate is based on a formula using market value as set by the five-year average of the net income, then capitalizing that income into a value.
“All of this is spelled out by WAC and RCW. The state legislature created the program in 1972 to insure agriculture production. For example only — an orchard’s market value may be $10,000 an acre, but the agriculture value is based on a formula that might put it at $1000 an acre,” said Furman. “There is a five person committee as set by WAC. Each type of crop is different… orchards, rangeland, vineyard, irrigated or not.”
Furman wanted to remind taxpayers about the Senior Exemption Program. If someone is 62-years-old or older and has a combined gross income of $35,000 or less they may qualify for the Senior Exemption Program. He said the income is calculated a little differently than what people use for their income taxes purposes and encourages those interested in the exemption to contact the assessor’s office at (509) 422-7190. Information about the program can also be found at the assessor’s website by going to www.okanogancounty.org and clicking on the assessor link.
“Those unhappy with their assessment can go online and look up what the values in their area are. The website is a great resource,” he said.
To appeal a tax assessment, Furman said to get in touch with the Board of Equalization by calling the clerk of the board Laleña “Lanie” Johns at (509) 422-7105.
The next sixth of the county will be for property in the Tonasket School District.