In a 5-2 vote, the Snoqualmie City Council on Nov. 27 approved a property tax increase by the maximum limit of 1 percent for 2018 at their Nov. 27 meeting. The total levy amount for 2018 will be $7,946,846.
As discussed at the previous council meeting, the 1 percent increase is a measure taken to keep up with the constant rise of inflation and expenses. Both Interim Chief Finance Officer Rob Orton and Mayor Matt Larson expressed that with expenses rising 2 to 3 percent each year, taking the 1 percent increase was an important step in trying to catch up to inflation.
The city is limited to the 1 percent increase due to State Initiative 474, which limits local governments to a maximum levy of 1 percent per year. That limit put cities around the state into a crises, Larson said, and forced them to tighten their finances as much as possible in the years since its adoption in 2001.
The only way a city can levy more than 1 percent is the increase is approved by voters. In 2016, Snoqualmie voters approved a levy increase above the limit to fund the addition of two police detectives and a firefighter to city staff.
Despite the staff recommendation to approve the increase, council member Bryan Holloway asked for the council to consider banking the 1 percent for the next year. Banking would allow the city to defer a 1 percent increase in the coming year, for the option of adding part of it to the following year’s taxes.
Holloway cited several outside factors that are having an effect on Snoqualmie citizens’ taxes, and did not want the city to add to that.
“Within recent history, we have done a levy increase for public safety, there was a levy increase on our citizens for the new high school, there is potential levy action from the state in regard to education, this is our major revenue source for the general fund but all our revenue sources were up this year,” he said. “I asked for consideration of banking the 1 percent this year. It’s $75,000 which will not grossly impact our budget, and while these other things wash out, we can come back and collect at least a portion of that, some of it may evaporate through the wonders of math in state government, but we have the opportunity to bank and give our citizens a little relief.”
Council member James Mayhew expressed concern with the proposition. He said he was uncomfortable with banking the increase unless there was a thorough discussion of how an equal amount was going to be cut from expenses as a alternative.
“I’m very uncomfortable, not taking this 1 percent unless we can clarify what we are going to do about spending in response to that, or we can clarify where we can make up the revenue and it has to be on a sustainable basis in my view,” Mayhew said. “So for those reasons it seems to me the 1 percent is something we need to do.”
Council approved the increase in a 5 – 2 vote with Holloway and council member Sean Sundwall opposed.