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Using MRSC’s Tax and Population Data


May 17, 2018 by Steve Hawley
Category: Economic, Population and Historical Tax Data

Using MRSC’s Tax and Population Data

Recently I wrote about one of MRSC’s new tools showing local sales tax rates and components. Today I’ll be covering another of our financial tools, this one showing recent tax and population data for every city and county in Washington.

Our Population and Tax Data page contains several files with information on property taxes, sales tax distributions, and population from 2010 to present. This includes the annual population estimates released by the Office of Financial Management (OFM) as well as data from the Department of Revenue (DOR) and Office of the State Treasurer (OST) on locally assessed values, levy rates and amounts, current maximum statutory levy rates, and sales tax distributions for each jurisdiction.

Using this data you can easily examine basic financial information and trends within your jurisdiction since 2010 or compare your jurisdiction to nearby or peer jurisdictions.

We’ll continue updating this information several times per year as new information is released by OFM, DOR, and OST. The next update will be in late June or early July with OFM’s new population estimates.

Update (5/24/18): Please note that there is rarely an "apples to apples" comparison between jurisdictions. For instance, some cities provide their own fire and library services. Other cities are annexed to fire districts and/or library districts, which shifts some taxing authority from the city to the fire/library district. This can result in a significantly lower levy rate for the city, even though the total tax burden on property owners might be similar.

Some cities and counties have rapidly increasing property values, which can result in steadily decreasing levy rates due to the 1% levy limit (unless the jurisdiction submits a levy lid lift to voters), while other jurisdictions have relatively stable or even decreasing property values.

Meanwhile, different cities and counties have different sales tax rates and use the money for different purposes. These factors and more can have a significant impact on a jurisdiction's levy rates and revenues.

Using the City/Town Data

For cities, each file contains information on:

  • Population estimates
  • Locally assessed values
  • Regular levy rate per $1,000 assessed valuation
  • Current statutory maximum levy rate for each city
  • Regular levy amounts (total revenue), including levy lid lifts
  • Excess/bond levy amounts (total revenue)
  • Total levy amounts (regular levy plus excess/bond levies)
  • Sales tax revenues

We provide a snapshot of the most recent data in each category (PDF or Excel) or historical data from 2010 to present (Excel). The Excel spreadsheets allow you to sort or filter any of the values, so you can quickly and easily compare your jurisdiction to nearby or peer cities.

City-property-tax-screenshot

Using the County Data

The county data is similar to the city data, but there are a few differences due to the unique nature of counties. For counties, each file contains information on:

  • Population estimates (total and unincorporated)
  • Locally assessed values
  • Regular levy rate per $1,000 assessed valuation
  • Current statutory maximum levy rate for each city
  • Regular levy amounts (total revenue), including levy lid lifts
  • Excess/bond levy amounts (total revenue)
  • Total levy amounts (regular levy plus excess/bond levies)
  • Sales tax revenues

As with cities, we provide a snapshot of the most recent data in each category (PDF or Excel) or historical data from 2010 to present (Excel).

In addition, all of the assessed value and levy information includes breakdowns for the general fund and the county road fund, as well as conservation futures funds and diverted road funds for those counties that use them. (Levies for the general fund and conservation futures fund are assessed countywide, while county road levies are only assessed in unincorporated areas, which is why they show different assessed valuations.)

We’ve also indicated counties that are using a road levy shift to increase their general fund levy rate beyond the normal maximum of $1.80 per $1,000 AV while reducing their road levy rate, although this is not very common.

County-property-tax-screenshot

Final Thoughts

Download these datasets and more at our Population and Tax Data page.

You can also learn more about property taxes, sales taxes, road levy shifts/diversions, and other revenue sources in MRSC’s City Revenue Guide and County Revenue Guide. While we have made some recent updates to these publications, please note that we are starting a comprehensive review and re-write of both publications, to be released this coming winter.

Questions? Comments?

If you have comments about this blog post, please leave a comment below or email me at shawley@mrsc.org. If you have any questions about other local government finance issues, please use our Ask MRSC form or call us at (206) 625-1300 or (800) 933-6772.

About Steve Hawley

Steve joined MRSC in July 2014 to help improve online content and research local ballot measures. He brings a strong communications background and has worked on urban and regional planning projects around the country, including Pittsburgh, Houston, and Albuquerque.

VIEW ALL POSTS BY Steve Hawley

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