San Juan County Council will hold three public hearings on Current Use Open Space applications at 1:45 p.m. Tuesday, August 16 in the legislative hearing room. If approved,Laura Derevensky of Montgomery New York will have her property taxes reduced $4,714; the Kilsburrow LLC of Friday Harbor will see the property taxes on 78 acres reduced by$10,530; and Mary, Daniel, Rachel and NoraFerm of Bainbridge Island will have their property taxes cut by $6,821.
Kilsburrow LLC does not reduce the number of homes which can be built, receives a tax break for a non-existent water view on 30 acres, and has two separate parcels (a 30 acre and a 48 acre) treated as one.
The $22,065 will be shifted to the rest of the county property tax payers. They will pay extra to make up for these property owners' tax breaks.
While the Current Use programs are state programs, each county determines how much of a tax break is given. San Juan County's point system was supposed to be reviewed every three years and hasn't been. The council removed the language calling for the review and has placed any changes to the point system on the back burner. They have added a new point system to allow property owners to receive tax breaks for not farming their land.
The county's Current Use program has also been plagued by a lack of enforcement. The county assessor has repeatedly asked for funding for additional staff, county council members have questioned during meetings whether the amount of taxes being paid unjustly by taxpayers because of cheaters is really worth the cost of hiring more staff for the assessor.
With his current staff, the assessor has not sought out obvious scofflaws, frustrating citizens wondering why some progress is not being done.