King County assessor wants Legislature to fix laws to help small businesses

King County assessor wants Legislature to fix laws to help small businesses

Changes needed because of COVID-19 impact on commercial properties

  • Thursday, June 4, 2020 11:28am
  • News

Citing substantial drops in property values for some commercial sectors hard hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, King County Assessor John Wilson called on the Legislature to amend state law to give assessors more tools to set values on commercial properties affected by the pandemic accurately.

The King County Assessor’s office is about to begin the annual process of mailing out re-valuation notices to taxpayers.

“The world today is radically different than it was on Jan. 1 when state law has us set assessed values for next year’s taxes,” said Wilson said in a June 4 news release. “While residential values have been relatively steady, many businesses have been either temporarily closed or their operations dramatically constrained. And thousands of workers have been laid off or furloughed.

“But we don’t have the legal authority to adjust property values to reflect this reality. That is not fair or equitable.”

Each year, county assessors appraise every commercial and residential parcel in the state. These values – set effective of Jan. 1 by state law – are then applied to the next year’s tax bill. Property values are being set on Jan. 1, 2020, for taxes due in 2021.

Data indicates that home sale prices and overall home values have been relatively flat in the aggregate compared to last year. As always, values vary from city to city and neighborhood to neighborhood – some are up, and some are down. One significant factor in residential home values in King County is the increase in values in suburbs around Seattle, especially in the south end.

“Home values have become unaffordable in Seattle and the Eastside for many buyers, so they are moving further out,” Wilson said. “South end areas such as Auburn and Kent are seeing a lot of demand and therefore increases in value. This is happening in other areas of the country, as well, where values in the primary urban core have become unaffordable.”

Certain sectors of commercial properties, such as restaurants, mid- and small retail, recreational centers like gyms and yoga studios, plus hospitality properties like hotels, have been dramatically impacted by Gov. Jay Inslee’s “stay home” order.

The assessor’s office has been consulting with the state Department of Revenue on possible tools in state law to adjust commercial values – and, most importantly, help people get back on their feet – by allowing values to reflect the current situation.

“If we’d been hit by a massive earthquake, flood or tsunami, state law would give us tools to reset fair values, but the law doesn’t cover a pandemic like COVID-19,” Wilson said. “It’s just not fair to smack some of these hard-hit businesses and landlords with values set well before COVID-19 raced through the community.”

Wilson is asking the Legislature to amend state law to allow counties to adjust values to account for today’s situation accurately. He has identified two options for the legislature to consider if there is a special session this year:

* The law currently allows property owners to petition to have their value adjusted if a governmental restriction has an impact on the property. It is unclear whether COVID-19 government-imposed restrictions could be applied, so Wilson is proposing clarifying language.

* State law allows assessors to adjust taxable values if the property is damaged by a natural disaster, but not because of a pandemic. Wilson wants to expand the law to cover impacts as a result of governmental restrictions enacted during a public health pandemic.

Roughly 55% of King County taxpayers pay their property taxes through their mortgage account on April 30. For the remainder who pay the property tax directly themselves, King County delayed the first payment deadline to June 1 without penalties or interest.

“This is simple,” Wilson said. “If your property values have been affected, you deserve to have that reflected in your 2020 valuation. If there is a special session, I hope the governor and Legislature give us more tools to assess values accurately. Also, I call on the federal government to continue and increase relief to all citizens and businesses struggling during this historic pandemic.”


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@kirklandreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.kirklandreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in News

Design rendering of new development (Courtesy of Runberg Architecture Group)
Vulcan purchases 1.4-acre property in Bellevue next to future light rail station

The real estate developer says the eight-story development will have about 250 units of housing.

Elaine Simons, former foster mother of Jesse Sarey, addresses a crowd outside the Maleng Regional Justice Center on Aug. 24, 2020, moments after Auburn Police Officer Jeff Nelson was formally charged with second-degree murder and first-degree assault in the May 31, 2019, shooting death of 26-year-old Sarey in front of a north Auburn convenience store. File photo
Supreme Court rules officers can be compelled to testify about killings

In a joint lawsuit against King County, the Washington State Supreme Court… Continue reading

Stock photo
Face coverings again recommended for indoor public settings

Regardless of vaccination status, says Public Health – Seattle & King County

t
Firearm violence in King County on upward trend

King County prosecutors note a backlog in court cases, point to the pandemic as the reason why.

Screenshot of King County Ecologist makes a PSA regarding water bacteria
Juanita Beach closed for bacteria levels once again

The beach is expected to be closed for at least a week.

infographic created by Coltura
Study suggests that the top 10 percent of gasoline-using drivers consume one-third of all the gas

Researchers believe converting “gasoline superusers” is an important factor in meeting climate goals

King County Logo
County property purchased in Bellevue for Eastside supportive and affordable housing

The $186 million project is expected to be finished by 2023.

Source: King County Medical Examiner’s Office
Drug overdose data shows an alarming trend in recent years

King County data indicates massive increase in fentanyl deaths from 2008 to 2020.

file photo
Eastside Fire and Rescue to share services with Woodinville Fire and Rescue

Eastside Fire and Rescue Board of Directors approved a ten-year agreement to share services.

Most Read