Commissioners, assessor agree: legislature needs to act


September 15, 2022

Taxes, construction, and candidate interviews highlighted the Tuesday meeting of the Wahkiakum County Board of Commissioners.

County Assessor Bill Coons discussed the recent revaluation notices sent to county property owners.

Overall property values increased 22.3 percent, largely because of the addition of $14.6 million in new construction to the county's overall property value.

While assessments are up, the increased value will cause the tax rate to drop from approximately $7 per $1,000 of assessed value to $6 per $1,000 next year.

The increased valuation will trouble property owners, commented Commissioner Dan Cothren.

"A lot of places are going to price people out of the market," he said. "That's something the legislature needs to tackle."

Coons agreed but pointed out that county assessors are bound by law to set assessments based on the property valuation on the first day of the year.

"The legislature needs to change it," Cothren said.

"I agree," Coons said.

One possible solution, said Coons, would be to follow California's example in which a property's purchase price becomes its assessment and can be raised just 1 percent a year.

Another issue, said board Chair Gene Strong, is the low threshold for senior citizens to qualify for a senior citizen exemption.

Coons agreed again, pointing out that the rate is uneven across the state, with the threshold much higher in urban counties.

"I really hate to have to turn down people if they're $1,000 over the limit," he said. "Our legislature needs to hear from our citizens that they want something done that will preserve our rural way of life."

In other business:

--Commissioners approved an amendment to a state grant that funded improvements at the county fairgrounds. The cost of new paving came in under budget, and the cost of building a new barn came in over budget. The amendment allows the transfer of the extra $21,760 to the barn project.

Strong reported that a portion of a concrete slab is cracking and needs to be replaced; he will meet with fair officials and present a possible repair project next Tuesday.

--Commissioners also interviewed candidates to fill vacancies on the Grays River Habitat Enhancement Board. Letters of interest came from five people--Charles Shumar, Don Dyer, Susan Amala, Judith Johnson and Andrea Vincent.

After the interviews, commissioners appointed Vincent, Johnson and Dyer to the enhancement board.


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