No property tax increase in Edmonds; lobbyist is axed

City Council amendments to the budget hashed out
By Brian Soergel | Nov 29, 2018

Despite costing the average homeowner in Edmonds just 62 cents a month – and with home prices decreasing in Puget Sound – a proposal to raise property taxes in Edmonds by 1 percent was defeated by the City Council this week.

Chalk it up to tax fatigue.

That decision was just one of several voted up or down during a back-and-forth between City staff and councilmembers as they continue to iron out the 2019 budget.

On the property tax, that means the vote was to maintain the current property tax. There was one other option on the table, put forth by Councilmember Mike Nelson, to decrease the rate by 1 percent.

“We can’t control if the Legislature increases the state property tax rate, and Edmonds residents have to pay 16 percent more this year,” Nelson said last week during initial discussion of the property tax. “We can’t control if we have to pay more for our car tabs, or if the public votes for Sound Transit fee increases.

“But we can control our utility taxes; we can control our property taxes. And when you add all these different taxes or citizens have to pay, this is just one more additional item they have to pay. Everybody I’m hearing from is just at the breaking point.”

Voting for no increase were Councilmembers Diane Buckshnis, Kristiana Johnson, Neil Tibbott and Dave Teitzel. Voting against were Nelson, Tom Mesaros and Adrienne Fraley-Monillas.

Fraley-Monillas said she voted against the no increase because she wanted to do away with the associated banked capacity, which she felt gave the City too much control in raising property taxes at a later date. But her proposal did not get a second from councilmembers.

Nelson had wanted the 1 percent reduction.

Although the City would not get the estimated $100,000 from the 1 percent increase, local governments are allowed to “bank” unused tax capacity from years in which they did not raise property taxes to the maximum allowed. The City now has $66,000 in that account, Finance Director Scott James said.

The City Council, however, did vote unanimously to increase the City’s emergency medical services tax by 1 percent, a $2.07 annual increase for the average homeowner.

Federal lobbyist

Last year, councilmembers voted to retain Washington, D.C. lobbyist Tim Lovain during final budget deliberations, reversing an earlier decision after negotiations between Mayor Dave Earling and Councilmember Nelson.

Earling argued that a federal lobbyist was essential for the City’s quest for federal transportation funds, particularly for the redevelopment of Highway 99 and the proposed Edmonds Street Waterfront Connector.

On Tuesday, councilmembers again voted to remove the lobbyist and his $72,000 annual salary. Voting against were Councilmembers Tibbott, Teitzel and Mesaros.

“We’ve seen nothing from the federal government,” Fraley-Monillas said. “The lobbyist didn’t get us the money we’ve gotten so far. Just because having lobbyist doesn’t mean we’re going to get anything.”

Among other amendments Tuesday was the approval of funds for municipal court security costs and approval of eliminating funds for a consultant to study future plans for the Five Corners area.

The council rejected an increase in pay and hours for the City’s public information officer, as well as removing $45,000 for a contract position in the Public Works department. A proposal to remove $65,000 for a police car for the next school year’s public resource police officer was also rejected.

 

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