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Update (Correction) on New Laws that Affect City/Town Annexations

In my June 10 blog post, New Laws that Affect City/Town Annexations, I discussed the implications of 2013 legislation, SSB 5444, which amended RCW 84.40.175 to eliminate the requirement that county assessors annually value tax-exempt government-owned properties. I interpreted the practical result of this legislation as being that government-owned property will no longer count towards the 100 percent of assessed value of the area proposed for a petition method annexation by a city or town. But it appears my interpretation may have been incorrect.

I spoke yesterday (6/25) with a specialist at the Department of Revenue (DOR), who stated that county assessors will nevertheless need to value publicly owned property for purposes of petition method annexations under RCW 35.13.130 and 35A.14.120. So, it is DOR’s position that when a proposed annexation includes government-owned property, the city or town (or perhaps the annexation initiators) needs to ask the county assessor to value the publicly owned property, which would count toward the 100 percent assessed value of the area proposed for annexation. The fact that publicly owned property is not annually valued anymore does not mean that it may not be valued; when necessary (such as in the annexation context), it should be valued. And all county assessors should do so upon request in the context of a proposed annexation. Although that duty is not stated in state law, it appears reasonable to conclude that duty is necessarily implied in state law.

Consequently, there should be an extra step at the beginning of the process when a petition method annexation involves publicly owned property, and that step would be for the county assessor to value that property – unless, that is, the publicly owned property is the only property proposed for annexation.

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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.