Mosquito Control Districts: Classifying and assessing properties in proportion to the benefit received

Wetlands 2In May 2016, local governments reached out to the State Auditor’s Office with concerns that mosquito control districts were not following state law regarding annual assessments for district operations.

RCW 17.28.255 requires a mosquito control district to annually classify the properties within its boundaries in proportion to the benefits derived from the district’s operations. Then, the district must apportion and assess those properties; the assessments are to be collected with the general taxes of the county or counties covered by the district boundaries.

In June 2016, representatives of the State Auditor’s Office met with the county assessors at their fall conference in Coupeville. We shared our concerns regarding mosquito control district assessments and sought their cooperation in conducting a survey to determine how districts are classifying and assessing properties. In July 2016, we initiated a survey of all county assessors for the fiscal year 2016 assessments, covering a period from January 1, 2015, through December 31, 2015.

What we found

The most common issue we found was that districts did not classify properties in proportion to the benefits they derived from the districts’ operations. Of the 19 mosquito control districts in the state, only two appeared to classify properties as state law requires, and only six districts assessed properties as state law requires.

Helping districts comply with the law

In November 2016, with our initial survey results in hand, we led a strategy session in Moses Lake with the districts, county assessors, county treasurers and Department of Revenue officials, looking for ways to help districts comply.

We brought the results of our discussions to the districts’ conference in April 2017. In addition to answering the districts’ questions, we rolled out a compliance matrix and a timeline for the districts to comply. In preparation for a follow-up meeting later in 2017, we surveyed the districts to find out how they planned to comply.

In June, we updated county assessors at their annual conference in Spokane, walking through our review process and answering their questions. We also gave them copies of the compliance matrix and information about the new compliance timeline.

In August, we had our final meeting with the districts, and informed them of the timeline they must meet to comply with RCW 17.28.255. We will start auditing districts for compliance in January 2018.

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