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Life county levy, adopt impact fees
At last week’s budget hearing, a half dozen citizens called for an increase in taxes so that Island County can continue to provide for the high quality of life we’ve come to expect around here. Others claim they’ll vote with their feet, and point their wagon to another, less expensive county, if an increase were proposed.
This sounds like a practical alternative, so let’s comparison shop our Island County levy rate of $6.86, as reported by the State Dept. of Revenue. There’s jobs on the mainland but Snohomish has a levy rate of $9.11, King County checks in at $8.81, Pierce jumps to $10.86, Whatcom at $9.38 and Skagit charges $9.04. Even more rural areas fail with Jefferson County at $7.92, Kitsap $9.02, and Okanogan at $10.43.
As it turns out we’ll have to point our wagon to San Juan County, the only one of the 39 Washington counties with a lower levy rate of $5.16 (increasing in 2010).
Since moving doesn’t cut taxes, maybe we can stay put and increase revenue. Our current county administration has inherited a business plan that relies on a constant influx of residential growth with short-lived, building-generated taxes and permit fees to keep afloat. But, when a recession strikes and this growth hits the skids, we’re in hot water.
Also, the experts say the cost of providing services to occupants of that new residential construction far exceeds the long-term taxes generated. All but three jurisdictions (cities or counties) around here have relied on mitigation fees for new residential construction to balance the books for over 15 years now. Maybe that’s the bandwagon to jump on. In the meantime, I’ll opt for the levy lift to fund a conscientious county government as the responsible alternative.