Public meetings set to discuss proposed Island County law-and-justice tax

Island County Sheriff Mark Brown addresses the Board of Commissioners last week about the Law and Justice Council
Island County Sheriff Mark Brown addresses the Board of Commissioners last week about the Law and Justice Council's recent resolution to pursue a $2.6 million levy. The commissioners OK'd a series of community meetings to get public feedback on the proposal.
— image credit: Justin Burnett / Whidbey News-Times

The public will get its first chance to weigh in on a prospective $2.6 million law-and-justice levy during community meetings to be held on Whidbey and Camano islands.

The meetings are 7 p.m., Thursday, June 27, at Fire Station No. 25, 2720 S.W. Heller Road on North Whidbey; 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 9 at the Camano Senior Community Center, 606 Arrowhead Road; and 7 p.m., Wednesday, July 10, at Trinity Lutheran Church, 18341 State Highway 525.

Led by Island County Sheriff Mark Brown, the meetings were green-lighted by the commissioners last week following a presentation by members of the Law and Justice Council.

The council adopted a resolution last month urging the board to move forward with a $2.6 million property tax measure. Because of filing deadlines, the measure can now only be run on the November election ballot.

The council’s resolution was presented to the board of commissioners Wednesday. It was the first time they reviewed it as a group. None of the commissioners pledged concrete support for the levy as proposed, but there was agreement to get community feedback.

Commissioner Helen Price Johnson said she is supportive of putting a levy before voters but the details of the measure need to be finalized.

Hearing from the public may help fine-tune the request, she said.

“That’s what I’m looking for, not whether or not to put it on the ballot,” Price Johnson said.

Board Chairwoman Kelly Emerson said she supports the prospect of obtaining public input but indicated her support may be contingent on a tax break elsewhere.

“At a time when this is such a rough economy, I felt that if we are going to do that ask of the taxpayers that we need to give something back,” Emerson said.

Commissioner Jill Johnson, a member of the law and justice council, said she was included in the decision to pass the resolution and bring it before the board for action.

Johnson added she is not considering the levy as a permanent revenue generator for law and justice. Rather, she is hoping for enough of an economic recovery to occur. If that happens, renewal will not need to be sought when the suggested five-year sunset clause expires.

“I’m personally am not looking at this levy lid-lift to be an ongoing and long-term permanent solution,” Johnson said.

Brown said he is encouraged by the board’s reaction. He said he is also glad for the opportunity to hold the meetings because it’s a chance for the commissioners to hear directly from the community, and he believes the message will be one of support for the measure.

“I think that’s what they are going to hear from the public.”

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