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King County seniors air frustration over property tax hike

One woman says she has a blue tarp around her chimney because she can't afford roof repair due to property taxes.
(Credit: KING)

Seniors packed into Kirkland City Hall Tuesday to complain to the King County assessor about property tax increases -- an average of 17 percent across the county this year.

Assessor John Wilson told them he feels their pain.

"I feel a little bit these days like the 21st century Paul Revere, riding across the county, 'The taxes are coming! The taxes are coming!'" Wilson said.

70-year-old Gina Milano purchased her Bellevue home in 1978. She has blue tarp around the chimney because she can't afford the repair. That's because two-thirds of her social security goes to paying her property taxes.

"I never dreamed I would be living in a million neighborhood," Milano said. "I didn't plan for that. My taxes are over $7,000 this year. They'll be higher next year because of the school levies passed this year."

"We're getting increasingly desperate seniors coming to the senior center," said Claire Petersky, Executive Director of the Wallingford Community Senior Center.

"I can't hear what is going on in the social worker's office adjacent to mine, but if someone is sobbing loud enough, I can hear them through the wall," she said.

Wilson explained many seniors don't qualify for tax relief because their household pulls in more than $40,000 a year. That financial threshold to qualify for tax relief is dictated by a state law passed three years ago. Wilson said he is lobbying to change it.

Skyrocketing home values do little good for people who are taxed out of their home and can't afford another home in the county.

"You're not just leaving your house, you're leaving all those memories," said Milano, who has lived in her home for 40 years.

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