There has been a lot of talk recently about city taxes, the need to cut back, angst over so-called "out of touch City Council members," and reports from advocacy groups that Seattle is pushing out the middle class because of rising taxes. Of course, none of this is true.
Since, 2004, city-imposed property taxes have declined. Take a look at the chart below which shows city-imposed taxes per $1,000 of assessed value of real property, those from other jurisdictions (i.e., Port of Seattle, King County, school district), and the combined total. (Seattle's property tax rate is the bottom or diamond line.)
The tax rate is multiplied by assessed value to compute the actual property tax due. For example, a property owner with a home assessed at $476,000 would pay $3,922 in property taxes in 2009 based on the rates in the chart below. ($8.240 per $1,000 assessed value tax rate times $476,000 in total assessed value equals $3,922.)
The 2009 figure for Seattle is a projection which assumes that both the Pike Place Market and the Seattle Parks for All ballot measures will be approved by city voters on November 4. (Get the above chart here: Download property_tax_chart_102808.pdf
So, when you hear pundits cry that Seattle city government is increasing taxes, take a look at the facts first. Remember, too, that the property tax you pay is determined by the rate (set by governments with taxing authority) and by assessed value (set by the King County Assessor based on marketplace conditions).
Now, that being said, an argument can be made that city budgets have risen dramatically in recent years, significantly above the rate of inflation, and that the combination of taxes, services fees, and utility rates, plus the burden of King County, Port of Seattle, and school district imposed taxes and fees, have combined to create a difficult economic situation for many. This reality was clearly in mind yesterday as the Council considered utility rate increases proposed by Mayor Nickels.
Council central staffer Tony Kilduff (in white shirt in photo taken from my seat on the dais) presented his thoughts on long-term City Light capital spending, warning us that capital investments today lead to higher electric rates later.
The Council will spend all day Thursday and Friday pouring over various issues related to the city budget for 2009 and 2010. More on all this to come . . .