Dear Yelm Community Blog readers:
The news released last week would seem to indicate Yelm could be fast approaching a “perfect storm” for which every citizen should be prepared. The following information should be considered, regardless of the “spin” from Mayor Harding’s “State of the City” address next month to downplay these developments:
1. MEDIAN HOME PRICES DROP IN DECEMBER
According to Northwest Multiple Listing Service data released January 4, 2012, the decline in Thurston County median home “prices fell 7.42 percent to $212,000 from $229,000” for December, 2011.
The continuing decline in median home prices, dropping assessed home values, coupled with the volume of area’s home foreclosures is ominous, whose effects are felt in the budgets supporting public services.
2. YELM: TAXABLE RETAIL SALES DROPPED SIGNIFICANTLY IN THIRD QUARTER
Yelm took a huge hit in the third quarter as the city’s taxable retail sales drop was the largest in Thurston County, according to Washington Department of Revenue data released January 6, 2012. This means Yelm’s sales tax revenue dropped almost a whopping 10% in the third quarter of 2011.
While the Thurston County figures dropped 5.12% year over year, Yelm’s drop was almost 9%.
“The Department of Revenue also releases a separate category of taxable retail sales called retail trade, which is considered a better measure of consumer purchases,” quoting Rolf Boone in The Olympian.
That data show Yelm’s decline about the same as Thurston County’s 2% drop in this category.
Read more from the Washington State Department of Revenue News Release of January 6, 2012.
3. CITY OF YELM PROPERTY OWNERS GET 2012 UTILITY RATE INCREASES
Yelm Property owners are going to get hit with additional rate increases.
An additional sewer rate increase of 5.4% plus an additional water rate increase of 8.25% are to be tacked onto City of Yelm customers’ bills in 2012.
4. WILL RETURNING JBLM SOLDIERS ‘WALK-AWAY’ FROM THEIR YELM MORTGAGES?
The lead story on MSNBC this morning was on ‘Strategic Defaults,’ highlighting a retired Seattle couple.
As Yelm military families based at JBLM assess their lives after returning home from their Iraq service, will they “walk-away” from their Yelm houses via a Strategic Default and return to their hometowns? This IS the elephant in the room nobody wants to mention.
Bottom Line: Dropping median homes sales pricing, dropping local spending by the public and dropping take-home pay after more of Yelm’s utility increases are indicative of the potential of a perfect storm !
These three items (taxable retail sales, median home sales prices, property assessed values) greatly impact vital areas on which the public rely most:
1. Police & Fire.
S. E. Thurston Fire & EMS has been in the news recently as they grapple with diminished revenues from decreasing property taxes. Their Commissioners are focused on cutting expenses while doing their best to maintain quality service levels the public expects in an emergency situation. They are also looking at additional ways to generate revenue. Our emergency responders are trained professionals crucial in crises.
2. Yelm Community Schools
A February 14, 2012 Replacement Levy is vital for the public to renew just to maintain current programs. If this Levy fails, YCS will be forced to make severe cuts “into the bone” of the programs that support this regions children, which would be a travesty. Additionally, they would have to spend $80,000 for a second Replacement Levy ballot in the summer, money that should be spent for instruction.
3. Yelm Community Services
This past holiday season, Yelm Community Services Director Cindy Marchand-Cecil and her team received a major increase in requests for holiday meals over 2010. With the homeless situation and demand on social services ever-increasing with diminishing revenues, Marchand-Cecil went on a public relations offensive to educate citizens on their reach and their needs for assistance. She said Yelm Community Services would have all expanses covered if every vehicle owner in the area just renewed their annual tabs at Yelm Community Services.
4. Yelm Library
Since no contract has yet to be signed on purchasing the current facility for $1 million, there is still a huge question mark as to what the costs will be to City of Yelm property owners. While Timberland Regional Library (TRL) Director Crose reports the maintenance agreement with the City of Yelm “is in the hands of our mutual attorneys”, the public still has no information on how the purchase will be financed.
While we are entering uncharted economic waters, hopefully area citizens will step up in support of our vital public services!
See Wednesday’s blog for suggestions on what you can do!