Cowlitz County delivered its annual Valentine’s Day present a little earlier this year. Property tax bills have already started arriving in mailboxes, and some of them are going to surprise homeowners.
The county is expecting to collect around $136 million in property taxes and assessments (which includes diking, noxious weed control, etc.) in 2018, according to Janeene Niemi from the Assessor’s Office. That’s a 9.6 percent increase.
In 2017 and 2016, the county collected about $124 million and $118 million, respectively.
Tax rates have not changed much over the past three years. But tax bills are going up sharply in many cases because of rising home values, particularly in the Woodland and Kalama areas.
However, they’re also going up elsewhere. A random spot check of several middle- to upper-middle class homes in Longview Tuesday revealed increases of at least $200, and in some cases increases of $350 and $500. There were reports of some big boosts in Castle Rock as well.
Cowlitz County Assessor Terry McLaughlin has been out of the office recently and could not be reached to discuss these increases in detail.
But rising home prices have been well-documented in Cowlitz County. The median sales price for homes here rose from $180,000 to $235,000 in the year between in October 2016 and October 2017.
The median price of homes for sale in the county is now $236,000, according to the Zillow Home Value Index.
Marty Roth, the chief appraiser for the Assessor’s Office, said the entire county was at least slightly affected by rising evaluations, but some of the highest increases were in the county’s southern end. He declined to get more detailed than that statement.
However, Roth stressed that there are 100 neighborhoods with different property values in the county, meaning one home’s increase might not be related to another. For example, just because the property taxes of a home in Kelso were significantly raised this year doesn’t mean that every home in Kelso had an equally high tax raise.
The assessors office said that industrial property owners are paying about 14 to 15 percent of the county’s overall tax bill of $136 million. That percentage has been consistent for several years, though decades ago industry shouldered a much higher share of the burden.