Police and fire services in North Bend will both get a boost next year if city voters approve a proposed sales tax increase in November.
The sales tax of 0.1 percent could raise an estimated $180,000, if approved by a 60 percent majority of voters. Much of that revenue would go toward hiring an eighth dedicated police officer for Snoqualmie, North Bend City Administrator Londi Lindell told the North Bend City Council at its May 20 meeting. Other funds would go toward fire services, she said, pointing out that the city’s existing contract with Eastside Fire & Rescue will increase in cost by about $80,000 next year.
An eighth police officer would give North Bend two-officer coverage in the city for 18 hours each day, Lindell said.
It would also help balance police schedules, particularly if one is on vacation or out sick, said Snoqualmie Police Captain Nick Almquist, adding, “but the bigger part of it is the improved officer safety, and the ability to respond to the needs of the community here much faster.”
Since Snoqualmie Police began covering North Bend on March 8 of this year, Lindell said, “We certainly have gotten a lot of support from the community with more aggressive police coverage.”
Councilmen unanimously approved a motion to add a public safety sales tax to the November ballot, after a brief discussion on the state law that allows cities and counties to levy this type of tax. RCW 82.14.450 allows cities to impose a sales and use tax of 0.1 percent, provided that at least a third of the revenue is used for criminal justice, fire protection, or both. Cities must split the revenues, though, giving 15 percent to the counties they are in. Counties can also levy a public safety sales tax, up to 0.3 percent, as King County attempted to do in 2011. However, if a city’s tax is in place already, the county must provide a tax credit to that city’s taxpayers, to limit the cost impact to a combined total of 0.3 percent.
The tax, if approved, would raise the city’s sales tax to 8.9 percent. It would apply to all transactions subject to sales tax, making it “a fair tax,” Lindell said, because although the city has only about 6,000 residents, many more people visit the city and have an impact on its roads and infrastructure.
The law does exempt sales and leases of motor vehicles from the tax for the first three years of implementation.
The new sales tax measure will appear on the Nov. 4 ballot as Proposition No. 1, Sales Tax Levy for Public Safety Purposes.
In addition to the 60 percent voter approval requirement, the measure will need a voter turnout of at least 40 percent of the 2013 general election turnout. According to those counts, the measure will need a minimum turnout of 673 people, and a minimum of 404 “yes” votes.