Reader Opinion

My property taxes vs inflation tell a different story than the Olympia city manager told


Olympia's city manager told the city council finance committee at a meeting on February 14 that "property taxes are not keeping up with inflation."

That has not been my experience, particularly since 2018.

"I've graphed my semi-annual property taxes against the inflation rate for the past 17 years, shown below."
"I've graphed my semi-annual property taxes against the inflation rate for the past 17 years, shown below."

I've graphed my semi-annual property taxes against the inflation rate for the past 17 years, shown below.

From 2007 to 2017, my property taxes rose at almost exactly the rate of inflation.  That was a period over very low inflation, and the combination of property tax calculation factors produced an almost identical result to inflation.

Since 2018, however, property taxes have risen MUCH faster than inflation.  

There are two changes that I am aware of.  The first was the creation of the Olympia Metropolitan Parks District; which imposed an additional tax that we voted for.  All of that money goes to the City, but dedicated for parks purposes.  The second is the effect of the city decisions since 2017 to allow big apartment developers an 8-year (or in one case, 12-year) exemption from property tax.  The way the formula works, the rest of us pay more to cover the property tax that they don't have to pay.  That money goes to all of the taxing jurisdictions:  city, county, schools, port, and others.

Those two changes mean that since 2018, my property taxes have gone up much faster than inflation.

Maybe the city manager's tax bill is different from mine.  

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  • SecondOtter

    Maybe the City Manager is one of those who doesn't have to pay property tax. I know I do, and it is easily beating inflation. It's insane, I live in a manufactured home and yet they're treating it like a 'stick built' when it comes to taxes.

    No wonder all these apartments are being built. The developers are getting away with economical murder.

    Monday, February 19 Report this

  • Southsoundguy

    Stop voting for taxes.

    Monday, February 19 Report this

  • Freebird

    Stop voting for taxes

    Tuesday, February 20 Report this

  • Callie

    It's not at all surprising that the value of your house has beat inflation, and that your property taxes reflect the value of your house.

    Everywhere that is short of housing has this problem.

    I recently heard about how zoning changes in Minneapolis kept housing costs down. Yup, more infilling, more apartments. We need more housing to keep OUR housing affordable.

    Tuesday, February 20 Report this

  • BobJacobs

    Two other problems with the information provided by the city:

    1) Why focus only on property taxes? They are not even our largest source of city revenue. We should be shown the whole picture.

    2) Why are smaller houses assessed at full value, whereas larger houses are assessed at a reduced rate and commercial properties at even lower values? This results in poorer people subsidizing more wealthy people.

    Bob Jacobs

    Tuesday, February 20 Report this

  • MikePelly

    These give aways to institutional investor landlords which can extend now up to 20 years are real burdens to all other Olympia property tax payers. It would be a little more palatable if the people moving into these units were paying down a mortgage and acquiring their piece of the American pie. Instead their rent money is just making some insatiable millionaires richer and fatter.

    Tuesday, February 20 Report this

  • JasonS

    Did the city manager cite any statistical evidence of his own to support their assertion, or did it seem like the statement was pulled out of thin air? In the case of the former, I'd like to see that data for comparison. In the case of the latter, I'd like to hear an explanation of why he made that claim.

    Tuesday, February 20 Report this

  • HarveysMom

    Has the city provided their data for the assertion that property taxes are going along with inflation?

    I'm with JasonS, I'd like to see their data and their evidence for the claim. THEN, I'll see if I get heartburn over it.

    Tuesday, February 20 Report this

  • HarveysMom

    And are we talking about RATES of taxes vs inflation or dollar amounts? I'd like to see the city's support for that assertion.

    Tuesday, February 20 Report this

  • GlennBlackmon

    I don't have ready access to 17 years of data, but if we look at the last four years of data published by the treasurer and assessor, it seems that:

    City of Olympia property tax revenues increased 7% total

    With municipal park district included, city of Olympia property tax revenue increased 11%

    Consumer Price Index - Urban West increased 18%

    Jim Lazar property value has increased 53%

    Jim Lazar property tax rate decreased 25%

    Jim Lazar property tax payments increased 16%

    All of these are cumulative changes over four years, not annual average changes.

    Note that the first two values are for the city of Olympia only. I assume that reflects the perspective of the Olympia city manager.

    The last two values reflect the overall property taxes for Jim Lazar. Other jurisdictions, notably the Olympia School District, increased tax collections much more than did the city of Olympia. This may explain why Jim Lazar's perspective is inconsistent with the city manager's.

    Tuesday, February 20 Report this

  • longtimeresident

    Some good comments here.

    Wednesday, February 21 Report this

  • jimlazar

    Glen Blackmon is a fellow economist, and knows exactly how to twist and torture data until it gives him the answer he wants.

    First, by choosing his base year carefully, he does choose a window of time when my taxes rose a little slower than inflation. By including 2023 inflation, which assessment and taxes have not yet caught up with, he makes a point that is accurate arithmetically, but flawed substantively.

    I chose a 17-year period of actual payments, a long enough period to avoid temporal hiccups like the high inflation in 2022-23. The graph speaks for the actual property tax payments I have made over that time, and actual inflation for the same period from the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator.

    Yes, property tax RATES have gone down, because assessed value has gone up sharply. And yes, my property tax bill, which has risen faster than inflation, includes more taxing jurisdictions than just the City of Olympia. Glenn is not "wrong" about those statements.

    My point is that MY property tax bill has gone up far more than inflation since 2017, a six-year period. The City Manager said property taxes have not kept up with inflation. Apparently the City manager's tax bill is different from my own.

    The problem that the Olympia City Council can address is the massive shift of millions of dollars of property tax responsibility from large apartment developers to the rest of us, through the Multi-Family Tax Exemption (MFTE). That is a place that is causing OUR property tax BILLS to rise faster than inflation. To subsidize millionaire developers.

    Wednesday, February 21 Report this

  • Boatyarddog

    Glenn Blackmon

    Thursday, February 22 Report this

  • GlennBlackmon

    Jim: I used all of the data that's readily available, as evidenced by the source that I included in my comment. It seems a bit harsh to characterize this as twisting and torturing.

    Do you agree that over the last four years your property tax bill has increased less? And do you agree that over the last four years the city of Olympia's property tax collections have not increased faster than inflation?

    Also, I'm still not sure why you are using your school district tax payments to argue your case about city of Olympia tax trends.

    Finally, fellow economist, please label your axis.

    Thursday, February 22 Report this

  • JamesBishop

    How else are we going to transfer homeless people from tents to apartments without shady deals with contractors that pay no taxes for X number of years. Someone has their head in the sand on deals such as this, could it be these agreements are being made in a dark atmosphere. Wherever these agreements are being made it is the homeowners who are being victimized, the TAX PAYER. This brings up another subject of the voting age being lowered to 18 years of age. Now, you tell me how many 18 year olds are homeowners. Any and all taxpayer issues should be voted on by property owners only not by an 18 year old student who owns nothing in the way of property and probably has been intimidated to vote on school issues by someone in the school system.

    The tax system in the cities and the State of Washington is being conducted like a MAFIA operation and the voice of the people, who voice their negative opinion are very seldom listened to. Look at our great United States who has put us so far in debt, in the TRILLIONS. It appears that our State school system has the attitude to operate in debt and have to be bailed out with tax dollars. FOLKS, the Future is not looking good.

    Saturday, February 24 Report this