How much will your piece of the pie cost?

Island County is projecting to collect nearly $73 million in property taxes this year, up $3.4 million from the amount collected last year.

While more money will be collected, countywide, property owners will see the tax rate drop an average of 57 cents to $9.28 per $1,000 in valuation. In Langley, the rate decrease is 7.2 percent.

Oak Harbor residents are seeing a 9.7-percent decrease in their property tax rates while Coupeville residents will see a 2.8 percent decrease in their property tax rate.

Lower tax rates don’t mean taxpayers will be paying fewer taxes, however. Valuations have increased, more than offsetting the rate reduction.

The largest portion of property taxes goes to the schools. Local school districts will receive 27 percent while the state school Levy gets another 29.2 percent.

Property values in the South Whidbey School District have increased by about 10 percent, compared to Oak Harbor up 14.5 percent, Coupeville up 6.8 percent, and Stanwood/Camano up 12.5 percent.

In Oak Harbor School District, for example, assessed property valuations went up 14.5 percent in the last year.

Baenen said that the lower tax rates generally stem from local taxing districts asking for less money, combined with tax income from new construction and increased property valuations.

Next to San Juan County, Island County has the lowest average tax rate in the state.

Island County saw an $800 million increase in assessed property value to $7.8 billion for 2004. Baenen said that figure is 11 percent higher than last year.

The property valuation on Island County has increased about 11 percent or $803 million from last year to $7.9 billion. New construction added more than $156 million of that total, accounting for about $1.5 million in revenue.

“It’s obvious how important the building industry is to Island County,” Baenen said during last week’s meeting of the Island County commissioners.

He also provided information on where property owners’ tax money end up.

More than half (56 percent) of property tax payments goes to schools. Local schools receives 27 percent of the property taxes while the state school levy receives more than 29 percent of property taxes.

The remaining money is divvied up among other taxing districts, including libraries, hospital, cities, parks, ports, fire districts, and Island County. Approximately 17.2 percent of the tax revenue will go to funds controlled by the Island County Board of Commissioners, including 8.3 percent for roads, 8.3 percent for the county current expense levy and less than 1 percent for the Conservation Futures Fund.

The remaining amount is split among several taxing districts: 8.7 percent for fire districts, 5.3 percent for the hospital, 5.2 percent for Sno-Isle Library; 5 percent for cities and towns, 1.2 percent for parks, less than 1 percent for ports, 0.06 percent for cemeteries, and 0.05 percent for the Clinton water bond.

Baenen said the tax dispersal shows how important it is for residents to participate in local governments — especially if they want a say in how public money is spent.

With the county’s tax rate set, Island County Treasurer Linda Riffe can start mailing property tax statements, a process that should begin this week.

Island County has the second lowest tax rate in the state, following San Juan County.

Record reporter Joe Hunt contributed to this story.

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