Douglas County rate would rise, Chelan County rate would dip slightly under unified property tax levy proposal on November ballot


 The Chelan Douglas Regional Port Authority is asking voters to approve a unified property tax levy on the November ballot.

A bill passed unanimously in the state legislature this year allows the Port Authority to ask for voter approval of a unified tax levy rate on property owners in both counties.

The Chelan County’s 2022 tax levy rate is 17-and-a-half cents per $1,000 of assessed value while the Douglas County 2022 tax levy rate is 13.2 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.

The disparity dates back to when Chelan and Douglas County Port Districts were separate entities before consolidation into a regional Port District.

 Under the resolution signed off on by the Port commissioners earlier this summer, the difference of 4.3 percent would be erased under the "rate equalization" with property owners in both counties paying an estimated 16.2 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.   

Regional Port President and Douglas County Port Commissioner Marc Spurgeon said the economy particularly in the Wenatchee, East Wenatchee area, is of one economy. "Where you live is not predicated on where you're going to be working. So whether the Microsoft development is coming in Douglas County or Chelan County, it makes no difference because the people on both sides of the river act as a single economic unit."

Chelan Port Commissioner and Board Vice President Donn Etherington believes taxpayers in both counties should be contributing equally. "I would say that our two economies are linked together without distinction, and to me, it's a very simple equation. It's one of fairness. Every citizen of both counties should should support, if they choose, the funding of Chelan and Douglas Regional Port Authority equally, and so it's one word, it's fairness. They should both be the same."

Port CEO Jim Kuntz says having each county pay the same rate will not affect how much tax the Port collects, which can only increase by 1 percent a year.

However, Douglas County Commissioners urged the Regional Port Authority to consider alternatives to raising the levy rate for property owners in Douglas County.

In a letter to the Port Authority opposing the unified levy proposal, Douglas County Commissioners argued the “impressive level of economic development” in the county since the the two Port Districts consolidated as a Regional Port authority.

The letter from Douglas County Commissioners argued  that the property tax rate in Douglas County should not be increased because Chelan County property was taxed at a higher rate.  Douglas County argued the rates should be equalized at the lower Douglas levy rate or the Port Authority should encourage more development in Chelan County.

If voters approve the levy equalization on November 7th, property owners in Douglas County would be levied an increased property tax while in Chelan County the tax would dip slightly.

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Based on estimates for a home valued at $500,000;

In Douglas County, the levy would increase from $66.38 per year to $81.27 per year.  In Chelan County the levy would be reduced from $87.86 a year to $81.27 per year.  

There would be a one-year adjustment period before tax levies would even out according to Port CEO Jim Kuntz.  

The levy equalization request on the November 7th ballot will require a 50% +1 vote yes vote in Chelan and Douglas County to be approved.

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