Dow Constantine Explains Your Property Tax Increase

Look! Dow baked us a pie!
"As real estate values have dropped, there is a natural expectation that your property taxes should drop as well. However, this may not be the case."

But, Dow, didn't we have something special between us? (Sniff.) Doesn't our vote mean anything to you? What happened to the romance of last fall's election?

Accompanying your new 2010 property tax statement, the full note from King County Executive Dow Constantine and KC Assessor Lloyd Hara explains: "It's possible that while the appraised value of your home as decreased, your taxes have increased." Given our current recession, that's a painful double-whammy for some King Country homeowners: Your mortgage could be under water; you could be out of a job; and now your taxes go up? And how exactly is that $5 billion budget being spent? Let's analyze the KC pie chart, presented larger after the jump...

Above, the full ugliness of how our property taxes are spent. The numbers add up to only $3.5 billion, because the county has other sources of revenue. Still, that's a lot of money, an expenditure citizens will feel all the more acutely if their property taxes have risen. In his separate note, Hara blames a "declining market" for lower appraised values and predetermined spending obligations for any individual tax increases (some districts are up, others down).

Where would irate Tea Baggers propose to cut from KC pie chart above? $98 million for libraries? Doesn't literacy lead inexorably to college and brain-washing at the hands of liberal professors? Close 'em down! $1.7 billion for schools? The cash registers at McDonald's and other fast-food joints use icons and do the math for you. Unnecessary education!

But even skipping past the Port of Seattle ($73 million), which even non-Tea Bagging taxpayers would like to abolish, that still leaves around $1.5 billion in basic services required by most homeowners. And even if the value of your home has diminished, and even if your property taxes have counterintuitively risen, think how much less your house or condo would be worth without roads, sewers, water, electricity, or cops. That would be a whammy on top of the double-whammy, one step closer to the 10th Amendment every-man-for-himself libertarian apocalypse that would have all of us living as if in Mad Max or Cormac McCarthy's The Road.

But the situation isn't yet so dire. And some KC tax statements are actually lower (like for my shit-box condo, down 7 percent). But when Constantine and company start writing the 2011 budget, their pie is bound to look different. Real estate values may not have rebounded. And the Tea Baggers will be watching.

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