Deer Lagoon residents who reside within Diking Improvement District 4 may see their property tax bills increase next year.
District officials are proposing a flat $238 assessment for the approximately 200 parcels within the district boundaries. The fee would be levied once; the revenue is expected to last five years, paying for maintenance and recent repairs of infrastructure. A public meeting to discuss the assessment is at 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 10 at the Useless Bay Country Club, 5725 Country Club Drive just south of Freeland.
The diking district is unique in that it’s the only diking district on Whidbey or Camano islands that’s under county control.
“It’s ours,” said Bill Oakes, director of Island County Public Works. “It’s operated by the county.”
Day-to-day operations are under the umbrella of public works and serving as the district’s board are the Island County commissioners — Helen Price Johnson, Jill Johnson and Richard Hannold.
According to Oakes, the last assessment was passed in 2005. It collected a flat fee of $196 and was designed to fund operations for 10 years.
“So the coffers are empty,” Oakes said.
The new assessment would fund annual infrastructure maintenance, but would also pay back a 2014 loan taken from another county fund. It was emergency money that paid for new 24-inch tide gates and water inlets on the east side of the lagoon at the dike — the inlets had failed and the gates had holes and needed replacement, he said.
The process for approving the new fee requires the county to establish a board of appraisers. Members include Oakes as the county engineer, the county’s chief deputy appraiser and one county resident.
That board is responsible for holding the public meeting, then making a recommendation to the county commissioners, who will ultimately approve or deny the proposal. The decision can only be made at a public hearing, which includes a chance for formal public comment.
Commissioner Price Johnson said this was a no-fluff request that will pay for “basic” maintenance, and pay back the loan. Water in the lagoon is below sea level, so the dike and gates perform a vital function of protecting homes from flooding or other damage.
“It’s important that we have the resources to make sure they’re maintained to protect private property, and public property as well,” Price Johnson said.
The June 10 meeting is informal, meant to provide residents with information about the proposal and gather public comment. Residents are encouraged to attend and ask questions.