This week's (Dec 2) White Salmon Enterprise told readers what we Klickitat Democrats knew all along. Lou Marseles' story below the fold on the front page "County revaluations 'ideal', state says" gives credence to what our Assessor candidate, Victoria Allen, repeated over and over at every opportunity during the 2010 campaign. Unfortunately, the state report was published after the election, too late to wave around at a candidate's night. Kudos to the current staff who worked diligently to effect the annual assessments, which was key to bringing the revaluation ratio in line. The credit for improvement is theirs. We will be keeping this on file, since there may possibly be some memory loss as to when the improvements occurred, as well as who and what were responsible for them.
This article was not included in the online version, so for those who missed it, here it is.
County revaluations 'ideal', state says
by Lou Marzeles
Gorge News Report
For the first time in decades, Klickitat County has achieved a 100 percent ratio in its real property revaluation-which puts an additional $30 million into county coffers.
"We have people who've been with the county since the '80s" said Klickitat County Assessor Van Vandenberg. "No one can remember when we last had a 100 percent ratio. The 100 percent ratio means we've hit the ideal level set by the state. Historically, the level has been too low."
The new revaluation, for 2010, was released Nov. 12 from the Washington Department of Revenue. It also shows a new assessment of public utility companies in the county, which, in conjunction with the 100 percent ratio, contributes to the dramatic county revenue increase.
"At one point, it was as low as 69 percent," said Victoria Allen, deputy county assessor.
The real property ratio reflects how assessment of fixed property (as opposed to personal, movable property) compares to actual sales values of properties. Assessment of property values ideally should exactly reflect- or be 100 percent of-actual sales values. When the ratio is lower than actual sales values, Vandenberg says, property taxes go up.
"The assessed value of property isn't in line with actual sales values when that happens," he explained, "so taxes actually go up then."
When the ratio is low, taxes aren't reflecting actual sales values of property.
"When the ratio is at 100 percent, it means taxes go down, because then the assessed value is the same as the actual sales values," Vandenberg said.
The personal property ratio has been more than 100 percent for some time now.
"That's because Vicky (Allen) audits closely to the state," Vandenberg says.
According to Allen, the real property ratio has been growing steadily in recent years.
"Last year, it was 86.5 percent," Allen pointed out.
Deciding to go to annual assessments has helped Klickitat County, Vandenberg believes.
"Assessment offices in the state are required to go annually," Vandenberg recalls, "and I said, 'Why wait?'. So we were one of the first counties [to go to an annual schedule].
Real property values in Klickitat County are just starting to show a significant dip, according to Allen and Vandeberg. They noted that Washington and Oregon were the last states in the country to see a dip in real estate.
"Urban areas like Seattle did see sharp dips, but rural America really didn't see the same kind of thing. This county is just starting to dip," said Vandenberg.
"It plateaued," added Allen, "and it never climbed as high as some other areas, but the decline in the county is just starting."
After deciding not to seek another term as Assessor, Vandenberg is set to retire at the end of the year. He will be replaced by White Salmon's Denise (sic) Johnson [that should be Darlene], who beat Victoria Allen for the job in the Nov. 2 election.
"The office changes hands Jan 1 at 12:01 am, " Vandenberg said. "And there will be a lot of changes in the assessors' offices throughout the state. Eight assessors are retiring, three lost their elections, and one just quit. That's 12 out of 39, that's a big change."
Change will come also to Vandenberg's lifestyle.
"Most people only retire once," he said. "I plan to take it easy, do more fishing, play more."