Sound Stories. Sound Voices.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
You are on the KUOW archive site. Click here to go to our current site.

Love is in the air. And big property tax increases are in the mail

Happy Valentine’s Day? Your property tax — or your rent, probably — is going up to help pay for better schools.

New tax bills are being mailed to 300,000 King County property owners on Feb. 14, and there could be some sticker shock: The average bill in King County is going up 17 percent.

“We did some research and, frankly, this is the largest increase we’ve seen on record for as long as anybody can remember, so certainly for decades,” King County Assessor John Wilson said. “It’s a new high water mark.”

The percent increase varies city to city, from a low of 9.1 percent in Normandy Park to a high of 31.5 percent in Carnation. Seattle's tax hike matches the county average of 16.9 percent.

Most of the tax hike results from a court ruling from six years ago. The state Supreme Court said Washington state was failing its constitutional mandate to fully fund public schools.

Overall, about 57 percent of property tax collected in King County pays for schools, according to the assessor’s office.

Wilson said some low-income seniors and veterans can get a break on their suddenly higher taxes.

“The shame of it is, there’s not a lot of tools available to county governments to provide direct property tax relief,” Wilson said.

He said the state legislature is considering ways to let more low-income people get a break on their rising property taxes. Currently, veterans, people with disabilities and people at least 61 years of age can qualify for discounts on their property taxes if their household income is less than $40,000 a year.

Whether you own or rent, you’re likely to feel a pinch. Owners are free to pass the extra cost on to their tenants.

“They always pass it on to the little guy,” Washington Tenants Union interim executive director Violet Lavatai said.

Landlords in Seattle are required to give tenants 60 days notice before raising their rent by 10 percent or more and 30 days notice for rent increases that are less than 10 percent.

Property tax increases for 2018 in King County. The farthest column on the right shows the percent increase over 2017 rates for each city.

This post has been updated to add new details about how much notice is needed before raising rents in Seattle.

John Ryan loves getting tips and documents. He can be reached at or on the encrypted Signalor WhatsApp apps at 1-401-405-1206 (whistleblowers, never do so from a work or government device, account or location). For greatest security, use KUOW's SecureDrop portal. Snail mail is also a safe way to reach him confidentially: KUOW, 4518 University Way NE #310, Seattle, WA 98105. Don't put your return address on the outside.

Year started with KUOW: 2009