Taxes up, but for schools about what they were in 2018

MARYSVILLE – For the Marysville School District it could be the imperfect storm.

And it’s not going to be a very fun Valentine’s Day for Marysville taxpayers either. The assessor’s office will start mailing out tax bills Feb. 14.

The Snohomish County Assessor’s Office says taxes are going up an average of 32 percent in Marysville. And that doesn’t include school funding measures on the Feb. 11 ballot that won’t be on the tax rolls until next year.

The average taxpayer in Marysville will pay $902.20 more this year, or $3,719.75. If the school building levy passes Feb. 11, the amount would be closer to $4,439.75 starting next year.

That would still be lower than what’s paid by Bothell, Brier, Edmonds, Mill Creek, Mukilteo, Snohomish, Woodway and county residents.

Actually, the increase is not as big as it may seem as the average Marysville taxpayers paid $3,195 in 2018 and $2,817.55 in 2019 as rates went down. The only city in the county with a larger drop was in Arlington.

RFA costs

There are many reasons for the large increase in Marysville.

One is the voter-approved Regional Fire Authority, which wasn’t around last year, but will cost the average taxpayer $488.36 this year. That cost is $1.45 per $1,000 valuation.

Christie Veley of the fire department reminds taxpayers, however, that that is not an all new tax. City residents had been paying for fire service within their city taxes. To offset RFA costs, the city dropped its tax rate 63 cents per $1,000 valuation from $1.78 to $1.15. The average taxpayer will save about $162 in city taxes there.

Also there is the voter-approved school enrichment levy, which has misinformation online on social media. Voters have already approved $2.86 per $1,000 valuation, but last year the state only allowed the district to collect $1.50 per $1,000. This year the state is allowing a collection of $2.50 per $1,000 – up about $380 for the average home.

The only other substantial amount is two state funds for schools, which total about $175 more this year for the average home.

County, EMS, library and county conservation futures are all going up slightly, while school bonds and school capital projects are decreasing.

Break in 2018

Another big reason for the increase is taxes were an average of $500 lower last year, compared with 2018. Jason Thompson, superintendent of the Marysville School District, said voters don’t seem to notice sticker shock when taxes go down.

“When they got a break nobody said anything,” he said Monday.

Indeed the numbers show that’s the truth.

In 2018, Marysville taxpayers paid 44 percent of their local taxes to schools, on average. That dropped to 34 percent in 2019. Next year it will be 36 percent.

Those numbers do not include the state portion. But they do show while year to year it may look like taxes are increasing a lot, that does not take into account last year’s big dip.

Taking a look at it another way, taxpayers paid $5.07 per $1,000 valuation in local school taxes in 2018 – totaling $1,400 for the average home. Last year, that cost dropped to $932, or $2.11 per $1,000, as the state took on more of the responsibility. Next year, the cost would be $3.97 per $1,000 – or $1,275.

That’s still less than taxpayers paid two years ago. That’s why district finance director Mike Sullivan said he doesn’t get it now when people are saying, “How can we afford that?”

House values

Still another reason for the increase is property values in Marysville have gone up 9.24 percent. Taxes are figured out on an amount per $1,000 valuation of the home.

Other issues

Adding to the imperfect storm against the school district is controversy of boundaries that are being discussed publicly now. Thompson said they need to be talked out so a decision can be made hopefully for the school year starting in the fall. Critics also say after the McCleary decision the state is supposed to take on more school funding. That’s true, and it has, but that’s basically been a swap with the average taxpayer paying $135 less locally and $125 more to the state for schools, Sullivan said.

Others are saying Lottery money is supposed to go to schools and asking why the district doesn’t go for grants like the city does?

“I wish we could,” Thompson said of grants.

Such grants are not available to schools, he said, and the Lottery funds can only be used for operations, not building schools.

Schools old

Thompson said no matter what other issues there are, residents still need to realize “schools need to be replaced.”

The district hopes since the Capital Levy needs just 50 percent plus one approval that it still will pass, despite these obstacles. The levy would replace Liberty and Cascade elementary schools and upgrade security at all 17 schools.

“We’re being honest and transparent,” Thompson said. “We can change the character of the entire community – one school at a time.”

Sullivan added, “We still would be paying less than our surrounding area.”