The Assessor-Treasurer's Office must determine the property tax base for each taxing district and ensure that district levies are not more than allowed by law. There are 121 taxing districts in Pierce County. With irregular and overlapping boundaries there are 241 tax code areas.
Regular levies are subject to various limitations. Excess levies are determined by the voters and are not included in these levy limitations. Pro-rating occurs when one or more taxing districts has the same statutory right to levy for taxes. Levy rates are limited by either the $5.90 or the 1% constitutional limit. RCW 39.67.010 and .020 allow taxing districts to contract or transfer funds between the districts for the purpose of reducing pro-rationing.
1% Levy Limit
This limit prohibits a taxing district from levying regular property taxes in any year more then 101% of the highest amount of regular property taxes that could have been lawfully levied in that taxing district in any year since 1985, plus an additional amount calculated for new construction, improvements to property and the increase in the value of state assessed property. (RCW 84.55.010)
The limit is based on the population of the district and the district's need to increase revenue. A taxing district with a population below 10,000 would need to adopt a resolution / ordinance by simple majority to increase its levy up to the 1% limit. Taxing districts with a population over 10,000 are limited to the lesser of 1% or inflation as defined by the IPD (implicit price deflator) with the adoption of a resolution / ordinance by simple majority. If the rate of inflation is less than 1%, the taxing district could increase its levy up to 1% with a finding of substantial need and the passage of a second resolution/ordinance by a super majority vote of the governing body.
$5.90 Levy Limit
This is the maximum combined regular tax levies for senior and junior taxing districts, other than the state, in each tax code area. Not all districts are subject to the $5.90 limit. Exceptions include:
- State school
- Ports and PUDs
- Conservation futures
- Affordable housing
- Metro parks (if voted)
- Excess levies
1% Constitutional Limit
Established by Article VII, Section 2 of the State Constitution, the limit prohibits the aggregate of all tax levies on real and personal property from exceeding 1% ($10 per $1,000) of the true and fair value of property. This limit does not apply to excess levies, levies by port districts and levies by public utility districts. (RCW 84.52.050)
Information to Taxing Districts
Preliminary assessed values and levy limit information is sent to each taxing district in mid September. Pierce County provides levy limit factor worksheets, blank Levy Certification forms, court ordered refund information and a sample ordinance/resolution for districts' budget preparations. If the levy contact person for the district changes please notify the Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer via email at firstname.lastname@example.org .
By statute, districts assessing a levy the following year must submit a Levy Certification & their approved Ordinance or Resolution no later than November 30th to both the Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer & the Pierce County Council. Failure to submit these documents may adversely affect the following year's levy collection.
For more information regarding the levy process please view the Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer's Levy Workshop presentation. Copies of slides will be emailed upon request.