“TRANSPARENCY IN LOCAL GOVERNMENT”
On Tuesday, November 22, the Yelm City Council conducted a Public Hearing on setting an Ad Valorem Tax, an annual tax levy Yelm’s City Council assesses their property owners. The city council has chosen to vote for raising the tax every year since Washington State passed the initiative allowing cities with less than 10,000 people to annually increase the levy by 1%, all without a public vote.
There was NO comment from any citizen during the Public Hearing, as expected!
The Staff Report presented to council stated the assessed tax revenue of the city decreased by $33 million from last year. The 2011 levy rate was $1.74312 per thousand dollars of assessed valuation ($436 on a $250,000 valued home). However, as Mayor Harding stated, normally the city would have added a proposed 1% for 2012 as described by law, however the council was told they have reached their statutory taxing limit and therefore the rate will remain the same as last year = $1.74312 per thousand dollars of assessed valuation.
With the levy rate remaining the same, plus the decline in city property valuations, the decrease in levy tax revenue to the city will be from $1.12 million in 2011 to $1.06 million in 2012, a $52,000 drop.
Read more of the Staff Report for the AD VALOREM TAX”.
To his credit, Mayor Pro-tem Bob Isom outlined the following burdens imposed on Yelm tax payers:
– proposed 1/2 of 1 percent state sales tax
– Yelm’s annual 1% Ad Volarem tax has been imposed by the city every year since the state’s initiative passed
– additional hardships our fellow citizens are shouldering in these challenging economic times.
Isom asked the effect of REDUCING the tax rate by 1%, which he was told would equal about a $12,000 difference, thus not having a significant effect to the city’s budget. Council member McGowan asked if the city council would be able to re-impose the 1% tax rate next year and he was told by staff, yes.
Therefore, Isom moved to adopt Ordinance 948 (Ad Valorem tax) amending the levy rate to be reduced by 1%, which passed.
The City’s 2012 Budget:
The Mayor then opened a 2012 Yelm Budget Public Hearing with slides presented by City Administrator Shelly Badger, a budget of “just under $5.9 million.”
As per usual, there was no comment from the public during the 2012 Budget Public Hearing.
The staff said the budget slides presented to the council WOULD be made available on the city’s website for the public’s benefit prior to the next Budget Public Hearing, which will continue Tuesday, December 13, 2011 at 6pm before the Yelm City Council.
The City of Yelm 2012 Budget will be covered here, in depth in a future report, December 12th.
Council member Baker was absent:
Best wishes to Council member Joe Baker, who was recently hospitalized and has reportedly been released to his home for recovery!
Keven Graves is quoted from his November 25, 2005 editorial in the local newspaper:
“We (he & then Mayor-elect Harding) agree that a transparent government is better government.”
While Isom’s points about the burdens placed on citizens was noted, Mike McGowan made a statement that the effects of lowering the levy tax rate by 1% amounts to reducing the bill for Yelm property tax payers only by $5 per year on a $250,000 home. McGowan noted the 1% drop in the levy rate is a statement “of what good government can do.”
– Still, the City of Yelm had reached their statutory taxing limit prior to last week’s session and could NOT raise their levy amount any further. They tax and add fees to their taxpayers at every turn. The city council will get an article in the newspaper this week that they lowered the tax levy rate next year after giving “high-fives” to each other, however nothing will be noted that the $5 savings for a quarter of a million dollar home will be more than made up with another annual water rate increase.
And, Yelm taxpayers still do not know what their burden will be to fund a $1 million library facility, for which the mayor previously said the city could only afford spending $600,000.
– While I applaud council members for asking questions, some council members’ inquiries/comments to staff indicated a complete lack of understanding of the taxing process which they voted for their own citizens.
This was after Council member McGowan acknowledged the city council and staff have been working for weeks on this prior to the session’s vote. If that be the case, the questions put forth publicly and AFTER all of the previous meetings behind the scenes demonstrated several council members’ ignorance, which is frightening!
– An unaware and uninvolved public are Yelm City Council’s greatest allies in carrying forth their agenda. Lack of public participation at these 2 Public Hearings underscores this as fact!