The two options discussed were a levy lid lift and the formation of a Metropolitan Park District to free up General Fund dollars – both of which require a vote of the public and majority approval of over 50 percent.
After two discussions including a planning retreat on January 30, the Council provided direction to move forward with more information on the property tax levy lid lift option to place before voters in 2016.
As reviewed and recommended on February 16, a levy of $0.70 per $1,000 assessed valuation (AV) would breakdown as follows: $0.22/$1,000 AV would fund the ongoing cost to rent Interim City Hall and that portion of the levy would go away in four years; $0.23/$1,000 AV would rebuild the Strategic Reserve Fund and the General Fund Balance and also go away in four years; and a $0.25/$1,000 AV to maintain recreation and parks programs including operation of the swimming pool. This portion of the levy would stay in place until a park district of some form is approved.
For the average home of $251,000 (2015 estimated), the cost for this levy would be $176/year for four years and would be reduced after four years to $63/year to fund recreation and parks. Even with a levy at this level, the average homeowner’s total property tax bill would continue to be one of the lowest in Snohomish County.
As of January 2016, the city has spent $2.7 million to rent since 2009 and has not added any new revenue sources or cut any major programs and services to residents during that time. The city has kept vacant positions open to cut down on expenses including public safety personnel. The city is also pursuing economic development efforts to increase revenues. However, there are no funds to pay for the ongoing cost of renting an Interim City Hall. Without a new revenue stream to fund Interim City Hall rent and eventual construction of a new City Hall, major service cuts would need to take place no later than 2017.
Three prior capital bond measures to fund construction of a new City Hall failed to reach the required 60 percent threshold for approval. The April 2012 and April 2013 issues of City Happenings emphasized the impacts of those election results noting that “The city has no funding to continue to rent its interim City Hall space beyond July of 2014.”
The next steps are to further develop a proposed ballot measure so the City Council can decide whether or not to include all three aspects of the $0.70/$1,000 AV levy, determine a timeline, and discuss public education efforts over the coming months and then provide direction to draft an ordinance to place a measure on the ballot this year.
For more information on the levy lid lift, contact Interim City Manager Scott Hugill at (425) 744-6208 or email email@example.com.