Posted 12/6/23

Dream City Math

Having written dozens of property tax articles in a decade of Leader reporting, I’d say it’s a confusing topic, but here goes:

Washington limits increases in …

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Dream City Math

Having written dozens of property tax articles in a decade of Leader reporting, I’d say it’s a confusing topic, but here goes:

Washington limits increases in property tax REVENUES collected by cities, counties, et al, to 1.0 percent annually without a vote of the people. In addition to that 1 percent increase, local governments get the revenue increase generated by the incremental value added from new construction.

Multiplying the total VALUE by the RATE determines the REVENUE. Each year, the assessor calculates a new property tax RATE for each taxing entity based on the new year’s REVENUE requests and updated tax base VALUE.

If the VALUE of the tax base goes up, RATES have to go down to produce the same amount of REVENUE, and vice versa. People often think their tax bill will double if their assessed value (not “assessment,” “assessed value”) doubles. But it doesn’t work that way.

As a simple example, if a $250,000 house is taxed at a rate of $10 per $1,000 in value, the bill is $2,500. If the value of everyone’s house doubles, but there’s no new construction and local governments don’t raise revenues, the rate has to drop to $5 per $1,000 to generate the same revenue from what is now a $500,000 house.

The county website shows writer Keith Norlin’s tax bill grew from $2,631.92 in 2020 to $3,514.48 in 2023. It has not doubled or quadrupled, but it has gone up a lot: $882.56 or 34 percent over just four years. 

Like so many other locals, I agree with Mr. Norlin: Building a $40 million pool for the Y is unaffordable. Meanwhile, Sabrina Ann Schultz, who hasn’t even moved here yet, suggests we should have an even larger, Olympic-size pool that would miraculously pay for itself by hosting swim meets.

Dream City, indeed.

Barney Burke

Port Townsend


Olympic Angels correction

The numbers cited for children in foster care were misinterpreted in last week’s story about Olympic Angels. This is understandable, because foster care is notoriously complex. To understand who is living in the foster community at any one time is a very difficult thing to pin down.

According to DCYF, 20 children from Jefferson County are in out-of-home care. But this is not the whole picture. Many of the children in foster care in Jefferson County entered the foster system while living in another county. They now live in foster homes or with relatives on the Olympic Peninsula.

Olympic Angels volunteers serve what we refer to as the “foster community” in Jefferson and Clallam counties. We cast a wide net to encompass kids who might otherwise be overlooked by a fragmented and inconsistent foster care system.

This includes youth who are in hidden foster care, unable to live with their families of origin but placed outside of formal state dependency. We serve youth as they age out of care and after they have returned home to their biological families or been adopted after years in the foster system.

We serve youth in the margins who live with relatives and neighbors or strangers because of homelessness or unsafe adults at home. We also serve youth in official state dependency who live in licensed foster homes.

By the numbers:

- 58 kids have been served through our programs this year

- 45 of these 58 are from the foster community (the other 13 are biological or adopted children of the caregivers)

- 35 of the 45 children are in mentoring relationships

- 29 of the 35 are in mentoring relationships and have open dependency cases

- 6 of the 35 are in mentoring relationships and are from the broader foster community (likely kinship care, without a dependency filed)

What is clear to us is that the number of kids in the foster care community is not astronomical. We have a unique opportunity in Jefferson County to reach each of these children and support those who say yes to fostering. It’s as simple and difficult as that.

Morgan Hanna, Executive Director of Olympic Angels