Snoqualmie council, mayor debate sunset clause for tax hike

Two Snoqualmie City Council subcommittees will hash out the best way to put a sunset clause on a sewer, garbage and water tax hike that takes effect this year.

Discussing the end date at their Monday, Jan. 10, meeting, council members and the mayor had differences of opinion on how to sunset the 3 percent increase, which funds long-deferred capital improvements in the city while paying off city hall.

At issue was whether the sunset date should be tied to a specific event or time frame.

"It'll be a good idea to tell the people we'll be sunsetting the increase when city hall is paid off," argued Councilman Charles Peterson.

He stressed that payoff in 2021 of the remaining $2 million balance on the $7 million, 2009 building is the key moment to retire the increase.

"It should sunset when the note's paid off," Peterson said. "A future council, if they want to resurrect that 3 percent, that's their decision. But they have to take the action."

"It's important that we not lose sight of what this was voted for," said councilwoman Kathi Prewitt. "I want to be careful that we don't lose sight of the fact that the 3 percent was for capital facilities and infrastructure. I don't just want it rolled into the general fund when it goes away."

However, Mayor Matt Larson voiced reluctance to tie the sunset of the clause specifically to the payoff of city hall debt. He urged the council to keep options open.

"You might not want to do this," Larson said. "City hall is one of many pieces of infrastructure" that the city needs to pay for. He prefers that, if the council must sunset the rate increase, it tie it to specific date rather than a specific project.

"It gives the council maximum flexibility," he said.

The council's Finance and Administration and Public Works committees will discuss wording of a sunset clause in the ordinance, which received a first reading Monday.

Under the new rate, the average homeowner will pay about $8 more per month.

A public hearing on the new rate is 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 24, at City Hall. If approved that evening, the rate would be effective Feb. 1.

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