Island County hikes taxes by 1 percent

Island County commissioners increased county current expense fund, county roads and Conservation Futures levies by 1 percent Monday.

Budget Director Elaine Marlow gave the commissioners a PowerPoint presentation about the budget just prior to the vote. She explained that the budget the commissioners adopted in October assumed the 1 percent increase and would have to be modified if the increases weren’t adopted. Without the modest hike, she said further cuts may have to be made to programs or the workforce.

Nevertheless, Commissioner Kelly Emerson, the sole Republican on the board, voted against the three levy increases; she also opposed the budget. She said it wasn’t appropriate to raise taxes “during one of the worst recessions, if not a depression, in the history of our nation.”

The other commissioners passed the levy increases with a 2-1 vote. They pointed out that the cost of running the county increased beyond the 1 percent. Commissioner Angie Homola said adopting the small increase was “prudent and fiscally responsible.” Commissioner Helen Price Johnson said that the county’s current expense fund makes up only 7 percent of the average property tax bill in the county.

Marlow said a 1 percent levy increase in both the current expense and road levies translates to an estimated extra 2 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. That’s another $6 a year for the owner of a $300,000 house.

Under state law, the commissioners are limited to increasing the property tax levies by the lesser of either inflation, as measured in the implicit price deflator, or 1 percent; an increase beyond the limit would have to be voted on by the people. This year the implicit price deflator was 2.755 percent, so the increase was 1 percent.

For the current expense fund, the 1 percent increase amounts to an extra $76,000 that will be collected next year. The increase will bring in $80,000 for the road fund levy and an extra $6,675 for the Conservation Futures levy.

In addition, new construction, improvements to property and property tax refunded in the previous year increase the overall property tax levy.

The estimated current expense levy for collection in 2012 is $7.8 million. The road levy will bring in $8.12 million and the Conservation Futures levy will collect $680,000.

Marlow said the amount of new construction continues to decline in the county. She estimated $75 million in new construction for collection next year while it was $93 million this year.

The total value of the county continues to decline. While the total assessed value of the county was $14.6 billion for 2010 tax collections, it dropped to an estimated $12.8 billion for 2012 tax collections. That means the county’s property tax rate will likely increase, which doesn’t necessarily equate to an individual property owner’s taxes increasing. The depends on the change of assessed value of an individual property and how that compares to the rest.

“The most important factor affecting your property taxes is assessed value,” Marlow said.

The levy amounts are still estimates, Marlow explained, because the assessor’s office doesn’t set the tax rate until January.


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