By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News
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Councilman Erik Erichsen was the sole vote against both the 2013 budget and the increase in the tax levy Monday night, citing Sequim property owners who are living on fixed incomes.
Councilman Dennis Smith — who was appointed last month to fill the unexpired term of Bill Huizinga, who resigned in August — said he agreed that the budget unfairly burdens the city’s large population of elderly who are on fixed incomes.
“We’re raising taxes on people who don’t deserve it,” said Smith, adding that he is one of those people on a fixed income.
He voted to approve both the levy in-crease and the budget. Other council members also acknowledged the current economic situation.
“Things are tight right now, but if people want to use our facilities, they have to be paid for,” said Councilman Don Hall, who was attending his final meeting.
He announced in October that he would retire from the council because of health reasons.
The tax levy increase may still result in slightly lower taxes for some because property taxes are based on assessed property values, which decreased in 2012 by an average of about 6 percent, Councilman Ted Miller said, adding that the increase in the tax levy doesn’t cover the rate of inflation, so the city is losing money.
The city’s projected income is $23.2 million, while the planned expenses are $27.2 million. The city’s general fund budget is $8,083,349.
The difference between the income and expenses is about $4 million in capital projects that are paid out of the city’s savings accounts created for those purposes, explained Elray Konkel, administrative services director.
Most council members praised the staff and the budget.
“This is a good budget. It makes progress on important projects,” Mayor Ken Hays said.
Councilwoman Laura Dubois said the budget looked almost like a policy document and that she had seen improvement over the years she had been at City Hall.
“I’d like to thank the staff for a balanced general fund budget,” Dubois said
Council members noted that the budget was a process that had begun in March.
Cake was served during the meeting, and Hall was presented with parting gifts.
Police Chief Dickinson gave Hall a Sequim Police Department challenge coin, and members of the City Clerk’s Office gave him a gold watch.
Other gifts were more light-hearted.
Public Works Director Paul Haines presented a street sign marked “Don Hall Way” to be posted in the city’s public works hallway and a chunk of roadway that he said was “the last good piece of Fir Avenue asphalt” — symbolic of his work to improve Sequim’s infrastructure.
Four people have applied for appointment to the unexpired term of the position, which ends Dec. 31, 2013.
Council members will begin interviews at 5 p.m. Dec. 10 at the Sequim Transit Center, 190 W. Cedar St.
Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.