Conservation District looks at ‘rates and charges’ system

Whidbey Island Conservation District officials are considering going to a different kind of taxation system and want to know what residents think, the district reported in a press release.

Under state law, only conservation districts can use a system of “rates and charges,” which some consider a more equitable way to raise money from property owners.

A public hearing to explain the change and gather input is scheduled for 6-7 p.m. Tuesday, July 16, at the Coupeville Library.

Whidbey Island Conservation District currently has an annual assessment of $5 a parcel, plus $0.05 an acre. The funding represents a third of the district’s budget.

“Replacing the assessment with a system of rates and charges will allow us to create a more equitable and fairer rate structure versus the flat rate of an assessment,” the district stated in a press release.

According to the state Department of Revenue, an agency using a rate and charge system is not required to show a direct special benefit to any parcel. The statute recognizes that there are many indirect benefits received by citizens in each conservation district as a result of conservation work.

Approval of the rates and charges proposal is ultimately a decision of the Island County Commissioners.

Conservation districts serve as non-regulatory local partners that care for natural resources.

“Districts offer a range of voluntary services including assistance with erosion control, habitat restoration, manure management, wildfire prevention/mitigation, stormwater management, forest plans, irrigation efficiency, noxious weed control, fish barrier removals, livestock stream crossings and more,” according to the Washington State Conservation Commission.

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