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Cities and Towns: Don't Forget to Notify Your County When You Annex Territory

It's come to my attention that cities and towns sometimes do not notify their county (as well as fire and library districts, where applicable) when they annex territory. Notification to the county treasurer and assessor is required by state law, and lack of notification will prevent some property tax revenues collected from annexed territories from reaching their annexing cities and towns.{C}

I think this happens because these cities and towns simply don't realize they are required to do this. State law, specifically RCW 35A.14.801(6) (for code cities) and RCW 35.13.270(6) (for non-code cities and towns), requires that cities and towns:

provide notification, by certified mail, that includes a list of annexed parcel numbers, to the county treasurer and assessor, and to the fire district and library district, as appropriate, at least thirty days before the effective date of the annexation. The county treasurer is only required to remit to the code city those road taxes, fire district taxes, and library district taxes collected thirty or more days after receipt of the notification.

So while a city or town is entitled to receive county road taxes, other than those that are delinquent, that are collected beginning on the effective date of annexation, a city or town will only receive those taxes that are collected starting 30 days after notification to the county treasurer and assessor - though not any collected earlier than the effective date of the annexation. The city or town is entitled to receive those county road taxes until the year in which the city or town can impose its own property taxes on the annexed territory - which will, depending upon the effective date of the annexation, either the year beginning January 1 following the annexation, or the year after that.

If the area annexed is part of a fire district or a library district - both of which impose property taxes - and the city or town is not annexed to those districts, the same consequence will occur as to those district taxes when the county is not notified of the annexation. Your city or town will receive only those fire district and library district  taxes collected 30 or more days after receipt of the annexation notice, though, again, not any collected before the effective date of the annexation. (Although the statute requires notice to the fire and library districts, where appropriate, the critical notice would appear to be to the county assessor and treasurer, because it is the county that does the collecting and distributing of the property taxes. But don't neglect the districts!)

An absence of proper notification of an annexation to a county can also result in election precincts not being adjusted as they should be following an annexation. See RCW 29A.16.040(3).

So, don't forget!  Notify your county treasurer and assessor - and fire district and library where applicable - at least 30 days before your annexation becomes effective. It will pay to do so!

MRSC is a private nonprofit organization serving local governments in Washington State. Eligible government agencies in Washington State may use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get answers to legal, policy, or financial questions.

Photo of Bob Meinig

About Bob Meinig

Bob wrote extensively on the state Open Public Meetings Act, municipal incorporation and annexation, and a wide variety of other legal topics. He is now retired.