Clallam County takes 1 percent property tax levy

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — In a rare split vote, Clallam County commissioners have voted 2-1 to take the legally allowed 1 percent increase in its property tax levy in 2013.

Commissioners Mike Doherty and Mike Chapman voted in favor of the increase, which will bring in $97,388 and contribute to a total levy of $9.95 million

Commissioner Jim McEntire — the Board of County Commissioners’ only Republican — voted against the increase.

The owner of a home assessed at $180,000 anywhere in the county will pay an extra 40 cents in property taxes next year for services provided by county government.

The vote Tuesday came after the second of two public hearings on the 2013 Clallam County budget.

“Even though the effect on the average property owner is small, it seems to me that we ought to acknowledge the economic difficulties at large in our county, and not add to the burdens of our taxpayers,” said McEntire, a first-year commissioner from Sequim.

“It won’t provide any substantial relief, but at least it acknowledges the fact that our citizens are facing some kind of significant economic difficulty right now.

“And I can’t foresee, given what’s happening in our country these days, both in D.C. and in Olympia, too much prospect of any relief in the short run.”

McEntire suggested that the board modify the general purpose property tax levy by “removing and banking the 1 percent.”

The law allows the county to ‘bank’ the 1 percent increase and assess the tax after the economy improves.

County Administrator Jim Jones’ recommended budget shows $31.28 million in general fund revenue and $30.93 million in expenses for a $345,163 surplus.

“It just provides a little less of a surplus,” McEntire said in his argument against the 1 percent increase.

“It doesn’t change the expenditures planned.”

Commissioners are expected to adopt a balanced budget next Tuesday.

No members of the public testified on the proposed budget in either public hearing held Tuesday.

Chapman recalled the union negotiations he had a year ago that resulted in $1.8 million worth of annual wage concessions in 2012 and 2013.

“We received a package of $3.6 million, which were concessions from our employees directly saving taxpayers,” Chapman said.

“In return, we’re asking the taxpayer of an average-size house to come up with 50 cents for the next year.

“It’s a pretty good trade, I’d argue, for the taxpayer.”

Chapman, who was re-elected to a fourth four-year term last month, added that the board has “consistently said no” to other tax hikes, including a three-tenths of 1 percent sales tax pitched by law and justice officials.

“I think at the end of the day, Clallam County once again shows that we’re fiscally responsible,” he said.

In other action, commissioners unanimously passed a 1 percent increase in the 2013 road fund property tax levy, which is assessed to residents of unincorporated Clallam County.

The road levy increase amounts to $65,751 and added to a new total of just less than $6.71 million.

The owner of a $180,000 home would pay an additional 23 cents to the county’s share of the road levy in 2013.

In addition to road construction and maintenance, the road levy pays for other county services, including $450,000 for law and justice.

Resolutions establishing both levies were amended after the first public hearing.

Commissioners said they were concerned about potential misunderstandings with the $10 million total listed in the original resolution for the general-purpose levy.

A $10 million ceiling was placed in the first resolution to make room for a yet-to-be-determined value of state-assessed property, which is delivered to the county in January.

The unknown sum is the result of new directions from the state Department of Revenue.

Commissioners opted to forfeit that revenue in exchange for more transparency with solid numbers for the public.

The $9.95 million bottom-line general purpose property tax levy reflects the 1 percent increase in property tax — the $97,388 — as well as $100,445 in new construction and property improvements and $16,099 for annexations and refunds.

New state-owned properties coming onto the tax rolls are typically between $4,000 and $6,000, Jones said.

“While we give up the opportunity by not asking in resolution for a little bit more, whatever might come in January, we only give it up for one year because it becomes part of the next year’s number,” Jones said.

“We only miss it for one year.”

The levy rate for the general purpose property tax will go from $1.384650 per $1,000 in assessed valuation this year to $1.386897 per $1,000 in 2013.

The road fund levy goes from $1.434621 per $1,000 assessed valuation this year to $1.435858 per $1,000 next year.



Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: December 05. 2012 5:52PM
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