Opinion

Facts voters should know

A recent letter to the editor prompts this reply. As the election approaches, I wish to provide information and facts that will help voters be knowledgeable before they cast their votes in the general election.

The Greenbank Farm has no taxing authority.

The Greenbank Farm is owned by the Port of Coupeville. The citizens voted to create the Port of Coupeville thus making it a taxing authority.

The port plans to ask the voters in the port district to approve a Levy increase on the November 2008 ballot.

The levy increase will be .07 cents per $1,000 of assessed value if approved by the voters.

The owner of a $300,000 house will see an increase of $21 a year in real estate tax.

How the assessment process works:

The assessed value of property in Island County is estimated each year by the Assessor’s Office, based primarily on the buying and selling of property in Island County. This is called a “market approach” as set forth in our state statues.

The Assessor’s Office does not set taxes.

The Assessor’s Office assesses VALUE. Value is only one part of the process.

The elected commissioners of each taxing district in Island County, such as a port, decides how much money they need to conduct the business of their district. They set a rate based on the total value and the budget needs. This can result in a levy increase request if the current rate does not provide enough money to run the business of the district.

The business of the district is what the citizens have elected the commissioners to carry out on their behalf.

Those rates will vary with each district’s type of service and budgetary needs, such as library, city, county, cemetery, schools, fire, police, port and so forth.

The assessed value of each property in the taxing district is then divided by 1,000. The result is multiplied by the approved rate. ($300,000 divided by 1,000 = $300 X .07 + $21. (The port’s requested levy increase of .07).

This specific levy increase ends in 2017 when the bond for the purchase of the Greenbank Farm is paid off.

The Greenbank Farm Management Group (GFMG) board of directors is a 501(C)3 non-profit corporation chartered by the public in 1997 when the farm was purchased.

The members of GFMG board of directors are unpaid citizen volunteers. Their mission is to preserve and enhance the aesthetic character, economic value and community use of the Greenbank Farm.

The directors manage areas of the farm for the port. As such, GFMG board extends short and long term leases to others, i.e., long term leases are held by Jan Gunn’s Whidbey Pies Café, The Whidbey-Camano Land Trust Offices and short term rentals to the Highland Games, weddings and many different sizes of community meetings and events.

All of the revenue accrued is used for maintenance, operations and preservation of the farm.

The GFMG board of directors holds for the public’s participation events such as Loganberry Festival, Sunday Farmers Markets, Holiday Markets, Wine Tastings and Oktoberfest.

The port pays an annual fee of $49,950 to the GFMG board of directors to maintain the 140 acres that surround the 10 acres that are improved with the various buildings. That fee can only be directed toward that 140 acres.

A monthly accounting of the expenditures of those funds is reviewed by the port.

The buildings (the red barns) on the 10-acre site are the responsibility of the GFMG board of directors except for major repairs like roof replacement and infrastructure such as the water system.

These are a few basic facts Island County voters should know. There are other details and programs you can check out with a call to the Assessor’s Office, the Port of Coupeville or the GFMG Board of Directors.

Tom Baenen, a former county assessor, is on the Greenbank Farm Management Group board of directors.

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