According to discussion during the November 25th council meeting, for the first time in about 20 years, the Snoqualmie City Council voted not to [slightly] increase property taxes. State law allows taxing districts to increase their annual budgets by 1% of the previous year’s amount collected.
The increase proposed by the administration would have equated to about $89,000 in revenue and cost the average Snoqualmie homeowner about $17 per year. The administration said the increase would help cover 3% cost of living increases given to employees.
City councilmembers debated the proposed increase intensely with Mayhew, Ross and Sundwall in favor of the increase. Mayhew said the small increase was prudent to keep up with inflation and contracted employee cost of living raises. Ross noted that the city is already doing a lot with limited resources and so was in favor.
Included in the council’s discussion were topics like decreasing new construction revenue with the build out of Snoqualmie Ridge; the passage of I-976; and the termination of the Salish Expansion project which was estimated to bring in about $1.9 million annual tax revenue to the city.
Councilmember Bob Jeans noted the city was in tough times with the loss of these revenue sources and said he wants to work with the council to find other sources beyond property taxes. He said he was tired of paying the increase.
Councilmember Laase said he believed the city needs to tighten its belt and look at ways to save money, noting that you cannot spend your way out of a problem. He said the city wants to spend on luxuries and activities that it should’ve been tightening its belt on two years ago.
Councilmember Holloway led the charge to not increase taxes, saying his own city portion of property taxes had increased 5% annually for almost a decade which he believed should cover employee cost of living adjustments. He said he’s also talked to business owners who are very aware of increasing tax bills. He proposed an amendment to reduce the proposed 1% tax increase to zero. The amendment passed 4-3.
Last year Snoqualmie city council took a 1/2% increase even though city administration requested 1%. This year the council said no to any increase by a vote of 4-3, with Jeans, Laase, Holloway and Shepard in favor of the zero increase.
When asked what budget cuts might be explored, Mayor Larson said, “Everything will be explored. Not approving the 1%, the passage of I-976, and the loss of the Salish Expansion will result in significant stress on current and (especially) future budgets and capital projects. All projects not underway are on hold. We will have to go back to the drawing board with the Council and re-evaluate all projects and priorities, including the Community Center.”
In nearby North Bend, a city council that rarely takes the allowable 1% increase due to having a larger sales tax base said yes to taking it this year by the same close vote of 4-3. Councilmembers Garcia, Gothelf and Rosen voted against the increase.
The small property tax increase will give North Bend an additional [approximate] $17,000 of operating revenue in 2020. Even with the small increase, the average North Bend homeowner (home valued at $549,000) will pay about $39 less (annually) to the city compared to 2019.