Today, July 17th, the City of Snoqualmie released the details of a future, possible property tax increase that could be placed on the November ballot for voter approval. The city council could vote on July 23rd to put this levy up for a vote.
Snoqualmie is considering an operations levy to help maintain the current levels of police, fire, and emergency medical services. The measure would also help preserve basic maintenance of city streets, parks and trails to avoid more costly improvements in the future.
Since 2001, costs for basic city services have increased annually by approximately 3%, yet during the same time the city has only increased property taxes by a maximum of 1% annually per state law. The city can only increase property taxes by 1% in 2013 – unless voters decide to increase taxes for safety services, street, park and trail maintenance.
To address this issue, the city has implemented many belt-tightening measures over the past several years, including an ongoing hiring freeze, the elimination of cost-of-living increases for management, savings in health and insurance costs and forgoing replacement equipment for fire, public works, and parks departments.
“We started with belt-tightening, but it alone is not a long-term solution,” said Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson. “As a community, we face important choices about whether to maintain the same high quality of fire and police protection. We need to keep up with infrastructure improvements rather than waiting and paying more later. We need to maintain safe parks and recreation facilities, and preserve natural areas so they are here for us to enjoy for years to come.”
In January 2012, the city council reviewed a variety of funding options to address the long-term funding shortfall to maintain basic city services including public safety, streets and parks and recreation.
In March, the City of Snoqualmie engaged the services of EMC Research and Northwest Public Affairs to conduct a telephone survey of Snoqualmie residents to explore whether to pursue the levy option. Before placing a possible levy on the ballot, the city wanted to hear from the citizens about their priorities, their satisfaction with city services, the quality and level of basic city services, and their satisfaction with how the city is managing and providing those services. The research shows that Snoqualmie citizens are satisfied with the current level of city services and want that level to be maintained. To see survey results click HERE.
The cost of the measure would be $0.24 per $1,000 of assessed property value. For the owner of the average $413K Snoqualmie home, the cost would be $8 per month. For a $200K Snoqualmie home, the cost would be about $4 per month to maintain public safety, streets, and parks and recreation.
At the July 9th Snoqualmie City Council meeting, an ordinance that includes the ballot title was introduced to council members. The City Council will vote on the ordinance at the July 23rd council meeting. Pending council approval, the ballot title will be filed with King County to be included on the November general election ballot.
“This measure would allow Snoqualmie voters to decide whether to keep up and maintain the same quality and level of services for public safety and the basic maintenance of our streets, parks and trails,” said Snoqualmie Mayor Pro-Tem Kathi Prewitt.