Letters to the Editor

Why can't we afford return envelopes for 2010 tax statements? | LETTER TO THE EDITOR

To the editor:

What did you think when you read the letter from Linda Riffe, Island County Treasurer, in your 2010 tax statement? The one that said that the county’s budget crisis made it impossible for her to include return envelopes this year for you to pay your taxes.

Why is it that we can fund the WSU Extension Beach Watchers program (among other things) and pay to make new land purchases through the Conservations Futures Fund (our tax dollars), but we can’t afford a return envelope for us taxpayers?

After tracking our commissioners’ spending for the past year, I could hardly believe my eyes.

Last year, the commissioners approved an increase in property taxes, an increase in building-permit fees (twice); an increase in land-use fees; raised fees for burn permits; implemented a new conservation district assessment fee on taxpayers; increased the road levy by 1 percent; and increased the Conservation Fund levy by 1 percent.

Now I’ll grant you the poor economy hasn’t helped much. Less sales tax and illusive investment income isn’t a good thing. After relying for years on income from new construction, the reality that construction is barely alive in Island County can’t be good. But the fact that Island County raised building-permit fees twice in one year certainly isn’t helping.

But hold on — more Island County taxes are in the works.

Commissioner Homola is pushing for a stormwater utility tax, and the commissioners are working toward implementing this tax right now.

Collectively, the commissioners will be asking voters to approve up to three-tenths of 1 percent in a sales-tax increase for criminal justice; but in reality only a third of the money would go to the criminal-justice system, while 40 percent would go to the cities and towns — not justice. The wrinkle is that the law allowing the tax has a phased-in non-replacement provision, and by 2015 the money from the tax could not be used to fund any expenses that existed at the time the tax was approved.

The county will also ask voters for a levy lid lift beyond the 1 percent limit (by law the commissioners have the right to collect last year’s tax assessment plus 1 percent plus construction without a vote of the people). There are a couple of different options for lid lifts, and they could either run for a certain number of years or be permanent. My guess is the commissioners will make the lifts permanent.

After all the controversy last year over the commissioner’s inability to suspend or eliminate non-mandated items from their budget, they are currently looking to find additional funds for the Island County museum and other non-mandated projects.

In conclusion, I wish the commissioners would stop with the non-mandated items, quit taxing me to pay for them and give me my envelope.

Charlona Sawyer

Greenbank

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