Mid-Columbia property owners can check their mailboxes for valentines without fear of encountering a property tax bill.
Valentine’s Day is the traditional date to mail property tax statements. This year, neither Benton nor Franklin counties will mail statements until after the day of love.
By law, tax statements must be mailed at least 30 days before the balance is due. Since the first half of annual property tax bills are due April 30, that gives county treasurers until March 30 to mail them.
Franklin County expects to send property tax notices on Feb. 17, in keeping with the traditional timing.
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But Benton County will be slightly delayed beyond the usual date. Thanks to a software update, property owners won’t hear from the tax collector until statements go out on Feb. 24.
The treasurer collects taxes, but the assessor assigns property values and computes rates. And the assessor’s office is finalizing a new software system.
A spokeswoman for Benton County’s elected assessor, Bill Spencer, said staff is taking extra time to ensure the new system is operating properly before it mails statements.
Treasurers mail tax statements to all property owners, including those whose mortgage companies pay the actual bill. Those statements are advisory only.
The average property tax levy rate for Washington in 2016 was $11.47 per $1,000 of assessed value, or $1,147 for each $100,000.
Benton County’s levy rate was $11.60, yielding almost $115 million in taxes in 2016. Franklin County’s levy rate was $12.43, yielding nearly $39 million in taxes, according to the state Department of Revenue.
By law, total property tax increases are capped at 1 percent, a figure county leaders say doesn’t allow them to keep up with the rising cost of services they must provide under law — public safety and human services, jails, courts, prosecutors, indigent defense and so forth.
Voters approved the revenue cap in 2001. The state Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional a few years later, but the state Legislature reinstated it about a decade ago.
Lawmakers in Olympia are considering several bills to raise the revenue cap by tying it to population growth and inflation.
The House Finance Committee held a hearing on House Bill 1764 on Friday. Rep. Terry Nealey, R-Walla Walla, is a sponsor for the bill, which is being promoted by the state Association of Counties.
A companion bill, Senate Bill 5772, was introduced this week by a pair of west-side Democrats.