The Clark County Assessor has provided some additional information for Clark County homeowners about property tax changes over the past few years as part of their June 2023 mailing.  We appreciate this work to help provide more context for how property taxes change over time.

We wanted to provide some additional information to make sure Washougal homeowners and landlords who manage apartments understand the information from the assessor’s office, especially since the numbers provided in their document are just for Clark County. This may confuse local taxpayers who are used to seeing figures from our district which include both counties we serve.

McCleary Decision and 2019 Tax Year

First, the baseline year that the assessor has chosen ignores a significant change from the previous year.  The 2019 tax year was influenced by the McClearly Decision that implemented new property tax structure for school districts around the state.

The amount included for 2019 was reduced from what voters approved when the state introduced a $1.50 per thousand of assessed valuation cap.  This significantly lowered the tax amount that most districts could collect in that year, and which were previously approved by voters.  The amount went back up to reflect the new cap that the McCleary Decision introduced in 2020.

A better way to look at this is to look at the increase from 2018 to 2023, which shows the amount that voters have committed in support of their district through voted levies.

Washougal voters approved collecting $7.75 million in 2019, and $8.62 million in 2023.  The change helps bridge the gaps between what the state provides in basic funding and what the district needs to provide excellent school programs.

Washougal levies are paid by both Clark and Skamania county residents

The amounts listed by the assessor’s office are only the Clark County portion of the tax amounts.  Homeowners who compare the amounts on the assessor’s page with the amounts that Washougal voters approved in the 2017 and 2020 elections will find that they do not match. The assessor’s office, which serves only Clark County, is providing EP&O tax amounts for Clark County homeowners only.  This ignores the amount paid by Skamania County homeowners. The updated table below shows the amount for both counties, which match amounts approved by voters. This table also shows the amount that voters approved, but was capped, in 2019 and 2020.

EPO Levy amount in millions from 2018 to 2023 showing implementation of the McCleary fix which capped voter approved amounts in 2019 and 2020

Local funding of public education through bonds and levies

Local voters are asked to approved measures to help provide funding for our school district through bonds and levies.

Washougal voters have approved bonds in 1979, 1999, and 2015.  These bond measures funded construction of new schools and remodeling projects that keep our schools in great shape.  The most recent bonds, approved in 2015, provided funding to build Columbia River Gorge Elementary, rebuild  Jemtegaard Middle School, construct the new transportation facility, build the Excelsior building at Washougal High, update bathrooms and concessions at Fishback stadium, improve traffic circulation at Gause, repair the roof at Gause and Hathaway, and perform security upgrades and other facility improvements at every school.

Washougal voters approved replacement school levies in April 2023. The Educational Programs & Operations (EP&O) levy provides funding for instructional support, staffing to support student learning, athletics & activities, operations & maintenance, and health & safety investments.

The EP&O Levy will be assessed at $1.99 per thousand of assessed value for tax years 2024, 2025, and 2026. The levy is projected to generate $9,500,000 in 2024, $10,500,000 in 2025, and $11,500,000 in 2026.

The Capital levy, also approved by voters in April 2023, funds educational technology, staff development, and technology infrastructure in 2024.  Starting in 2025, as bond collections decrease, the proposed Capital Levy will increase by a corresponding amount to fund some additional projects. If approved, the Capital levy would be assessed at $0.21 per thousand of assessed value for tax year 2024, $0.84 per thousand in 2025, and $0.85 in tax year 2026.  The levy would collect $950,000 in 2024, $3,950,000 in 2025, and $4,150,000 in tax year 2026.

The additional funds would be used to replace the roof at Washougal High School, improve security at our schools, improve ADA access for main entrances, update carpet and vinyl flooring in schools, and install more efficient heating systems and controls. To learn more about these levies and the projects they will fund, visit our levy page. 

Impact fees and adding capacity to serve growth

Impact fees, which are assessed to newly developed property, have a complex formula that determines when a district can assess them. Our district has collected them in the past, and impact fees played an important role in adding capacity to our schools.

Currently, our school district has a larger group of students who are graduating over the next few years than the groups coming in as Kindergarten students, and thus we are not experiencing growth.  This means we are not legally able to collect impact fees.

The district reviews student growth patterns each year, and if we are experiencing growth in the number of students, we will work through the impact fee process with the city and county.

Impact fees can only fund items that are attributable to growth included in the district’s capital facility plan, such as building new classrooms, purchasing land for a new school, or adding portables. Impact fees may not be used to fund staffing, athletics, activities, or smaller class sizes.

This information is posted to the WSD website on the page about property taxes.