A proposed property tax hike for Diking Improvement District 4 appears as if it will move forward with little heartburn from area residents.
Less than a dozen people turned out for a public information workshop Wednesday, June 10 at the Useless Bay Golf and Country Club, and about half of those in attendance were directly involved with the proposal or were commissioners with other diking districts.
“I don’t expect there will be much turnout at the [official] hearing,” said Bill Oakes, director of Island County Public Works.
Diking Improvement District 4 is one of eight in Island County, but is the only one that’s actually under county control. 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.
The current proposal is to collect a flat $238 assessment for each of the approximately 200 parcels within the district boundaries. The fee would be levied once, paying for maintenance and recent repair bills for the next five years.
Oakes led Wednesday’s workshop, giving a quick history lesson of the district’s formation in 1919 and the details of the request, such as how the process works and what it would pay for.
While the crowd was small, there were several questions from the crowd. Richard Boyle, a longtime Shore Avenue resident, asked how the county knew which properties were within the ancient district lines and which were not. Oakes said it was a matter of comparing the original boundaries with modern parcel maps.
“So, from a 1919 map,” said Boyle, with a light hearted grin. “It might be something worth updating, but who am I but a grouchy old guy?”
He also asked why the proposal was for a flat rate, rather than by benefit per property.
“The last two times we’ve done this, we’ve decided the fairest thing to do was have everyone pay the same thing,” Oakes said.
Ron Donckers added that the rationale behind the idea is that a critical failure of infrastructure, such as the dikes, would result in homeowners of all values losing everything.
Donckers is a member of the district board of appraisers, which was formed per state law to determine a rate, hold a public meeting and then make a recommendation to the county commissioners. Members include Oakes as the county engineer, Amy Witt as the county’s chief deputy appraiser and one county resident — Donckers.
Others in the room seemed more supportive of the assessment. Bill Sievers, also a longtime Shore Avenue resident, said he would lose little sleep over the amount sought.
“It seems pretty reasonable compared to previous assessments,” Sievers said.
The meeting adjourned after about 30 minutes.
According to Oakes, the commissioners are expected to hold a formal public hearing on the proposal in August before the board votes to approve or reject the assessment. If approved, it will go into effect in 2016.