Assessor’s Office discusses property tax exemptions: Oct. 9 meeting recap

Oct. 11, 2023

Do you qualify for a property tax exemption?

Kayla Quiroga from the Island County Assessor’s Office joined Chief Yengoyan at his most recent Chat with the Fire Chief event on Monday, Oct. 9, at the Camano Center to discuss the county’s property tax exemption program.

Here’s a brief recap of the information shared by the Assessor’s office:

Property Tax Exemption Program

Kristina Mayhew, chief deputy assessor, and Kayla Quiroga, senior/disabled exemption program coordinator, attended the meeting on behalf of the Island County Assessor’s office. 

To be eligible, for the property tax exemption program, Island County residents must be 61 years of age or older, OR have an 80% or higher VA disability, or must be deemed disabled through the state. Residents must have owned their home for more than 6 months out of the qualifying year. As of right now, residents’ taxable and nontaxable income must be less than $40,000. VA disability payments also do not count as income in this program. The state did just pass a bill that raised the income level to $54,000 which is quite a bit of a jump because $40,000 is not feasible for most people. 

The 2023 Legislature passed Substitute House Bill 1355, which makes changes to property tax exemptions and deferral programs for senior citizens, persons with disabilities, and disabled veterans. In Island County, the income levels will change for the 2024 property tax year to the following. 

Income Limit Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 
2020-2023 $30,000 $35,000 $40,000 
2024-2026 (new) $39,000 $46,000 $54,000 

To see if you qualify, contact the Assessor’s office:  

The Assessor’s Office and Chief Yengoyan answered questions from the community, including the following: 

What about medical insurance that we are required to buy? Is that deducted from our income so we can qualify for an exemption? 

We allow you to use your Medicare Advantage premium, or supplemental insurance you pay out of pocket for, you can use that as a deduction for your income. You can also use the Medicare taken out of your social security as a deduction, or any medical or prescription drug costs you pay out of pocket as a deduction.

How many people on Camano qualify for an exemption? 

As of today, there are 1,800 participants in the exemption program between Whidbey and Camano islands. We’re hoping that with the new $54,000 income limit that more people will be able to use the program.  


Every year people’s property values go up. In some cases, their assessed value went up by more than $100,000. Doesn’t Camano Fire get some of that? 

Yes – but only a very small portion. If all the assessed value on the island was $100,000 and our levy rate was $1, we would only get $100. The next year, even if values doubled, we could only get $101 because by law, Camano Fire is limited to only a 1 percent increase each year. We don’t get more money just because the value of your house goes up. 


What about new construction? If more houses are built and more taxpayers are paying taxes, isn’t Camano Fire getting more money?

Last year the island saw roughly $60 million in new construction value, so Camano Fire will get the current levy rate of $0.83 per $1,000 assessed value from those homes. However, the more growth there is on the island, the more demand Camano Fire sees for services. We’re trying to continue to provide the level of service to the community that we think is appropriate. Right now, with the revenue we are getting, because it’s limited, we cannot continue to provide that level of service. 


What are you doing about the Mabana fire station? 

It’s partially staffed now, but not very often because we’ve lost some staffing. If the levy passes, yes, our goal is to hire more people and have that station staffed 24/7. If it doesn’t pass – we’ve had a few retirements this year and we’re not going to backfill those positions – we’re going to use that money to support Mabana staffing.  


How does the ability to have good fire support on the island impact homeowners’ insurance? 

Camano Fire is evaluated every 6 years by the Washington Surveying & Rating Bureau – they evaluate a lot of factors and come up with an insurance rating. Your homeowners’ insurance looks at that rating and it can help determine what your premium is. Lower numbers are better – and in our area on a scale of 1 to 10, we are a 5/6. The number is lower if you’re within 1,000 feet of a fire hydrant. For those properties more than 1,000 feet from a hydrant, we have large water tenders that can bring thousands of gallons of water to a fire.