The state gives counties two options for funding a weed board. One is out of the county's general fund; the other is through a property assessment. There are insufficient general funds available to effectively run the weed control program, so after taking and evaluating public comment, the Board of Clallam Commissioners approved the collection of an assessment for weed control beginning in 2000. Under general funding, only county residents pay for the weed control program. Through an assessment, the cost of the program is distributed more fairly because all landowners, public and private, county and city, must contribute.
There are several steps in the assessment process. First, the weed board holds a public hearing to classify lands for assessment purposes. For the hearing, it is necessary to list lands per the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 17.10.240 as well as any other land classifications the weed board determines will benefit from the noxious weed control program. Most counties determine a general benefit to all land classes and assess a uniform rate. The one exception to this uniformity is forest lands. The law requires that forest lands be assessed at one-tenth the rate of other lands. Certain parcels with no land component or no value established for taxation are exempt from assessment.
The weed board adopts a land classification system after receiving and evaluating public comments. Next, the weed board develops a recommended levy rate for each class, then forwards this recommendation to the commissioners for action. Then the board of commissioners holds a public hearing on the assessment. After receiving public comments and evaluating the proposal, the commissioners may either accept, reject, or modify the assessment recommendation.
Adopted Land Classification System
There are four classes of land, as follows:
This category includes all urban (city) and rural land in the county that is not specifically exempted or classified in another category.
Rationale: Noxious weeds have been found on every kind of county land including backyard gardens, undeveloped lots in urban settings, farms, pastures, wetlands, and family homes in rural areas. For this reason, the board proposed that all non-forest lands be classified together.
This category includes all those lands that are considered designated, classified or open space timber lands on county tax rolls.
Rationale: This classification is required by state law.
Miscellaneous - Non-Classified Lands
This category includes all federal lands including tribal, National Park, and National Forest Service lands.
Rationale: Clallam County Noxious Weed Control Board does not have jurisdiction over federal land, only state, county, and city.
This category includes parcels with building-only values, or parcels with no value established for taxation. This could include mineral rights or boathouses, which are recorded as "parcels" on tax rolls.
Rationale: The weed board does not assess parcels for which there is no land component.
This land classification system was accepted by the County Commissioners, and beginning in 2000, chapter 5.28 of the Clallam County Code authorized the county to annually collect $1.50 per parcel and $0.13 per acre on all property that is classified as nonforest land. On forest lands, the assessment is $0.15 per parcel and $0.013 per acre.
A city lot would be assessed $1.63 per year, $1.50 per parcel and $0.13per acre (or fraction thereof).
A five-acre parcel would be assessed at $2.15 per year; $1.50 per parcel and $0.65 ($0.13 multiplied by 5) for the acreage.
A ten-acre parcel of open-space forest land would be assessed $0.28 per year; $0.15 per parcel and $0.13 ($0.013 multiplied by 10) for the acreage.
- Why should people who don't have noxious weeds have to pay the assessment?
Weeds are everyone's problem. Even landowners who don't currently have weeds can be harmed by weeds that spread from adjacent lands. Seeds are carried by wind, water, vehicles, animals and people; the invasive nature of these plants means that no land is immune to their spread.
- Why don't you just fine the people with weeds and use the money to pay for the program?
The state law which mandates that counties have to control weeds gives the counties only two options for funding the work. One is out of the general fund money, for which there is a lot of competition. The other is through an assessment, which is not a tax, but a regulatory fee for a service that is available to all landowners. It cannot be imposed selectively, and the county has limited authority to fine people who have weeds.
- Do other counties fund their Weed Boards through an assessment?
At least twenty-one counties and five weed districts in Washington now have noxious weed assessments on their property tax bills. The fees range from $1.50 to $15.40 per parcel plus a fixed amount per acre of land. Clallam County, at $1.50 per parcel and 13 cents per acre (forested land is 1/10th the rate), has the lowest per parcel fee in the state.