Tax transparency helps us make better choices

Last year, I was shocked to discover that nearly half of all property owners in King County did not receive an itemized breakdown showing where their property taxes go. Property owners who pay their taxes through a mortgage company were not seeing their tax bill. In response to this, I introduced legislation requiring King County to mail a courtesy tax statement to 100 percent of all property owners. My ordinance unanimously passed the King County Council.

Last year, I was shocked to discover that nearly half of all property owners in King County did not receive an itemized breakdown showing where their property taxes go. Property owners who pay their taxes through a mortgage company were not seeing their tax bill. In response to this, I introduced legislation requiring King County to mail a courtesy tax statement to 100 percent of all property owners. My ordinance unanimously passed the King County Council.

King County recently funded a survey called “Priorities for the People” asking residents about their thoughts on county government. An overwhelming number of survey respondents knew what was going on in their own city, but were virtually unaware of the services provided by King County. Forty-seven percent of people said that King County was doing a poor job of reporting back to them. Is it any wonder when a large number of property owners never see a breakdown of what they are being charged for? Can you imagine paying your cell phone bill without seeing what calls you made? Unlike your cell phone, another county government cannot sweep in to provide better service for a different price. It is time that King County become more accountable to its customers. It is time that we receive the customer service that we deserve.

Starting on March 11 of this year, King County began mailing out a statement to those property owners not already receiving one that breaks down exactly where our tax dollars are going. With this information, taxpayers can now make more informed decisions when asked to raise their taxes.

Since 2005, the King County Council has passed outright, or sent to the voters, a plethora of new taxes. Nearly half of the voters in King County going to the polls or filling out their absentee ballots haven’t had the opportunity to review their own personal property tax information before deciding whether or not to support these tax increases.

I have been the most consistent member of the King County Council in voting against these increases each year. I am very worried that our residents are experiencing tax fatigue and will eventually reject key infrastructure and public safety proposals in the future. How can we justify making these decisions without all of the relevant information in front of us?

It is a fundamental tenet of democracy to be as open and transparent as possible. Every property owner should know exactly how much they are being taxed and exactly where this money is being spent. My Transparency in Taxation initiative is a crucial step in keeping citizens informed.

Reagan Dunn of Maple Valley represents the King County Council’s Ninth District, which includes part of Renton.

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