Opinion

Make sure you get a lot of bang for your tax buck | Editorial

After you enjoyed that romantic Valentine’s Day dinner, hopefully you were able to digest that after-dinner gift from the Kitsap County Assessor’s Office: Your annual property tax bill, mailed every Feb. 14.

Look, nobody likes paying taxes, we know that. But look on the bright side: We don’t pay a state income tax; in fact, Washington is one of only nine states that doesn’t tax income. And those property taxes you pay support a host of public services that enhance your quality of life.

Because of the property taxes you pay, emergency services are at the ready, roads are drivable, water flows clean from the tap. Libraries put vast resources of knowledge at our fingertips, and serve as venues for community events. Ports operate docks and marinas for our use, and bring economic development — investment and jobs — to our communities. Parks districts maintain green, open space for our recreation and relaxation.

In Poulsbo, Kingston and North Kitsap, our property taxes support Poulsbo city services, Poulsbo Fire Department, North Kitsap Fire & Rescue, Kitsap Regional Library, Village Green Metro Park District, Port of Poulsbo, Port of Kingston, Kitsap Public Utility District and North Kitsap School District.

State law puts a ceiling on the total amount of property tax a specific public agency can levy. And Initiative 747, approved by voters in 2002, limits public agencies to property tax levy increases of 1 percent a year. (Initiative 747 also empowers voters to raise a property tax levy more than 1 percent if they deem it necessary.)

According to the Kitsap County Assessor’s Office, taxpayers statewide have saved an estimated $1.6 billion in property taxes since the 1 percent limit imposed by I-747 took effect in 2002. “This estimate is based on the assumption that if the limit had not been in effect, taxing districts would have continued to collect the same percentage increase in taxes in 2002 and beyond, that they did in 2001,” the assessor’s website reports. “Property taxes are now about 6.6 percent lower than they otherwise would have been.”

When it comes to your property taxes, there’s a partnership between you and your government. You are responsible for paying property taxes, and public agencies are responsible for investing tax revenue wisely. But your responsibility doesn’t end when you put your property tax payment in the mail: You can help guide how its spent by watching how government spends your money, communicating with your elected officials and speaking out at public meetings.

Be aware of how your money is being spent. And don’t forget to pay your bill on time.

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