“Nothing is certain except for death and taxes.”

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It’s that time of the year again that we all look forward to… taxes. Certainly not the death part. Can you hear the bit of sarcasm?  More pages of quotes about taxes exist than pages in the help booklet that comes with the 1040 EZ Form (a 52 page booklet). Most of the quotes are not favorable. After all, no one likes to pay taxes, I get that!

Mike Lonergan, Pierce County Assessor Treasurer, and the County’s “Tax Man” met with the Council to talk about the County’s property tax assessments and I would like to share some of what I heard.

2017 Ad Valorem (voter approved) Taxes click here to view image
There is good news and bad news. In the cities that I represent, Fircrest, University Place, and parts of Tacoma the tax rate has gone down from 2016 to 2017. That’s the good news! The bad news is that the assessed valued has gone up in all three cities. This is good news if you think of your home as an investment but the bad news part is that your property taxes reflect that increase in assessed value and therefore are higher. Voter approved levies have an effect on your bill also. About 50.56% of total collections have been approved by voters for such things as school levies, bonds (i.e. Tacoma Metro Parks) EMS Levies, Fire District Maintenance and Operations, and regional transit levies. Since I represent you at the County, I think that you need to know that of the whole tax pie, the County only receives 9.461%.

Those are some of the details. I know that the tax burden in Pierce County is troubling for many residents. We recognize that property taxes may be more of a burden on some seniors or the disabled. My big take away from Assessor-Treasurer Lonergan that I want to highlight is the Senior Citizen or Disabled Person Property Tax Exemption program that we have in the County.  The Assessor-Treasurer’s office is there to help. You can contact his office at 253-798-2169. It requires filling out a form but the staff is there to assist you.

I wish we could do more. We are limited by State and Federal law on what kind of exemptions we are able to provide. What I hear from residents, is that they just want elected officials to be accountable. P. J. O'Rourke, an American political satirist and journalist has a great quote, “In theory, taxes should be like shopping. What I buy is government services. What I pay are my taxes.”

You have a right to know how your money is being spent and what services you are buying. My responsibility is to be responsive to you and to use that money wisely in my service to all the residents in Pierce County. Stephen Covey summed it up nicely, “Accountability breeds response – ability.” I make that my goal every day.