2018 property, EMS taxes approved in 4-3 vote

By Brian Soergel | Dec 01, 2017

Edmonds City Council last week approved a 1 percent increase on both property taxes and EMS services for 2018.

Voting for the increase were Councilmembers Dave Teitzel, Kristiana Johnson, Tom Mesaros and Neil Tibbott. Voting against were Councilmembers Adrienne Fraley-Monillas, Mike Nelson and Diane Buckshnis.

“I voted against increasing property taxes because our homeowners are getting hit again and again with taxes, and yet at the same time our city has enough revenue to increase our rainy-day fund to record amounts,” Nelson told the Beacon.

“Our 2017 city budget had significant funds left over, and this administration has asked council to set aside additional money for our large reserves. Supporters will say the amount you will pay in taxes is small, but it is the principal of the thing. There is no reason to be raising our property taxes.

“As for the EMS levy, why are we requiring our folks to pay more taxes after cutting two firefighters per shift and removing our dedicated paramedic this year? Their argument (which I voted against) was that these cuts would create ‘efficiencies’ and save money. What happened to all that savings? Now they want us to pay more taxes for less first responders?

“Let’s bring back the paramedic and firefighters they cut and then we can talk about what the public is willing to pay for basic emergency medical services.”

Buckshnis, in casting a dissenting vote, said the city has “banked” property taxes in the past.

Local governments are allowed to “bank” unused tax capacity from years in which they did not raise property taxes to the maximum allowed. County officials believe governments that earned that capacity with fiscal restraint should be able to keep it for urgent priorities.

“If you look at all the taxes the taxpayers have recently been hit with, such as Sound Transit, new utility increases and substantial increases in property values, the city could have banked the 1 percent,” Buckshnis said. “But, the presentation was quick, and suddenly we were voting, and when roll call came around I just said no.”

But James told councilmembers and Mayor Dave Earling the following: “We have some costs that are increasing faster than our revenue base is increasing.”

Finance Director Scott James said a 1 percent property tax levy would raise an additional $102,000, and a 1 percent EMS levy $39,700.

State law allows municipalities to raise property taxes by only 1 percent a year, although Edmonds has lobbied the Legislature for a local option to allow it to exceed that amount.

That means, in 2018, the city would see $10,378,930 in property taxes and $4,040,700 from EMS taxes.

James pointed out that the average home value in Edmonds is now $474,800. The property tax increase would, on average, add $5.93 annually. The EMS tax would add $2.30 annually.

The average homeowner would pay about 69 cents extra a month, James said.

The city also imposed a 1 percent property tax increase last year for 2017.



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