By Kienan Briscoe
For the Valley Record
The Snoqualmie Valley Hospital’s board of commissioners voted 4-1 in favor of adding an upcoming levy lift to April’s ballot that, if approved, would increase property taxes for residents in order to expand healthcare services in the region.
The resolution to add the levy to the April 25 ballot was passed by the board at their last meeting on Jan. 26, with all but David Speikers voting in favor. If voters approve the levy , they can expect to pay 70 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value for healthcare services — an increase from the current 23 cents per $1,000.
“We take asking our community to raise the levy rate seriously,” said Snoqualmie Valley Hospital CEO Renee Jensen in a news release. “The need is critical for securing the future of healthcare and keeping care local in our community. Additional revenue from the levy would go directly to enhancement of critical services and upgrades in equipment. Growing our services also means adding family wage, professional jobs right here in our community.”
The increase would allow the Public Hospital District No. 4 to serve population growth and outlying areas, support an emergency department expansion that would help keep wait times lower than other regional facilities, provide additional support in the emergency department to meet increasing behavioral health needs, replace aging and broken equipment. This equipment includes a CT scanner for stroke diagnoses, and large-bore MRI that accommodates more patients and allows additional types of exams to be done locally.
In addition, the levy lift would also increase family wage jobs, support strategic initiatives, enhance access to capital, grow the district’s limited tax general obligation (LTGO) capacity, improve overall debt service coverage, and contribute to the economic development of Snoqualmie Valley in general, according to the district’s board of directors. It would also increase the district’s cash flow and aid in capital improvements.
“In order for us to provide the services that our growing community needs, we’re now seeing a reduced tax revenue from our district,” Sherry Jennings, Director of Engagement and Strategic Communications, told the Valley Record. “We’re trying to bring it to a level where we can actually meet the needs of our community.”
Since 2013, the district has lost out on $12.7 million of regular levy revenues due to the levy rate not keeping pace with the growth in assessed property value, according to the board. The revenue has dropped from 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value to 23 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. Over the next five years, if assessed value and regular levy growth mirror the previous five years, then the 70 cent per $1,000 levy rate would fall to 43 cents per $1,000 in its fifth year, according to the board.
Assessed value in the region has experienced $8.1 billion in growth — an 87% increase from $9.3 billion in 2018 to $17.4 billion in 2023 — while the district’s regular levy has only experienced $585,000 in growth — $3.7 million in 2018 to $4.3 million in 2023, according to the board. The last time the hospital district asked voters to approve a levy lid lift was in 2008.
The 70-cent rate was the highest of the three options discussed at the board’s meeting with the only opposing vote, David Speikers, who has served on the board since 2006, believing the same expansion of services could have been accomplished with the lowest option, a 50 cents per $1,000 levy rate, which was the levy rate in 2013.
“I didn’t think we needed to put that much of a burden [on our residents], especially the lower income folks and retired people who are on fixed incomes,” Speikers told the Valley Record. “We’re being very good with our money and we’re making it work. We still have a long way to go if we want to be a full service hospital, but I don’t feel the economy is going to be great in a few years, and I don’t think being stuck with this big tax will be good for everybody.”
According to Redfin, the median sale price of houses in the area is approximately $910,000, which would equate to about $630 in taxes for homeowners. The Snoqualmie Valley Hospital District stretches from Snoqualmie Pass to the southern Duvall city limit, including the majority of the Snoqualmie Valley and a section outside Issaquah.