After 11-year streak, Sedro-Woolley to increase property taxes

November 16, 2018

SEDRO-WOOLLEY — After foregoing property tax increases for 11 years, the Sedro-Woolley City Council this week approved a 1 percent increase for 2019.

The increase will bring the city an additional $19,258 in revenue next year, according to city documents, but the decision to collect that money from residents did not come easy.

The City Council debated the need for more property tax revenue to support city services at its meeting Wednesday and voted four times on the options provided by the city Finance Department.

“It’s like Goldilocks — we just had to get to the right size,” Sedro-Woolley Supervisor and Attorney Eron Berg said following the votes.

The options considered by the council ranged from not increasing the tax to increasing it 4.94 percent.

The state allows cities to increase property tax rates 1 percent each year and to bank increases not taken in a given year for potential use later.

City staff and council members said Wednesday that property tax increases can help generate revenue for the city to maintain and increase public services such as staffing the police and fire departments and managing solid waste.

“We have been putting this aside for 11 years,” Councilwoman Pola Kelly said. “Not taking those property tax increases that we are allotted by the state to take, while it has been prudent in many ways it has also meant many of the things that may have been important to us to take care of ... we can’t do that right now.”

The council passed the 1 percent increase with a 5-2 vote, with council members Brenda Kinzer and Chuck Owen opposed.

The council more easily reached agreement on increasing utility rates, unanimously passing a 4 percent increase for sewer services, a 7.4 percent increase for stormwater services and a 16.4 percent increase for garbage and recycling services.

The property tax and utility rate increases will be incorporated into the 2019 budget the council is expected to pass at its next meeting, which will be held at 7 p.m. Nov. 28 at City Hall, 325 Metcalf St.

Also at that Nov. 28 meeting the council may vote on a proposed 2 percent increase in utility taxes the city charges to outside service providers.

The increase would generate about $126,000 in revenue and is proposed in order to add two new full-time staff members to handle the city’s growing records and information technology needs, according to city documents.

The council acknowledged during a discussion Wednesday that those charges could be passed on to residents who use those services.

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