Clallam commissioners split on 1 percent tax hike

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Before passing a 2014 budget by unanimous vote, Clallam County commissioners differed on a 1 percent property tax increase to fund general government.

Commissioners Mike Chapman and Mike Doherty voted in favor of the allowed increase, which will generate $99,506 in new revenue among a total $9.95 million.

'Economic burden'

Commissioner Jim McEntire cast the dissenting vote, citing an “economic burden to people whose purchasing power is pretty flat.”

McEntire, a Sequim Republican, prepared a series of graphs to show the economic conditions in Clallam County over the past 10 years.

“A smaller fraction of the people that live here are actually working,” ­McEntire said after the second of two budget hearings Tuesday night.

“That's the problem.”

McEntire said the general government levy is “north of inflation” because of the real estate boom that occurred more than five years ago.

Commissioners have taken the 1 percent increase every year since the limitation was imposed by a 2001 initiative sponsored by Tim Eyman and passed statewide.

“One percent is always well under the rate of inflation,” Chapman said in a Wednesday interview.

“If Tim Eyman thought taking 1 percent was reasonable and that's what the voters agreed to, then that's a reasonable number.”

'Without significant layoffs'

Chapman, a Port Angeles independent, said the 1 percent increase “makes up about half the rate of inflation” and allows the county to maintain current services “without significant layoffs.”

He added that the county has not considered new taxes on top of the 1 percent in years.

Commissioners did not discuss the budget, general government tax levy or road fund tax levy in their second budget hearing.

Chapman, McEntire and Doherty, D-Port Angeles, all voted in favor of a 1 percent increase to the road fund property tax levy. The increase will add $67,160 to their year's $6.72 million levy.

“Because it's not collected from property owners in each of the three cities, we're falling pretty significantly behind inflation in terms of the purchasing power,” McEntire said of the road levy.

“One of the basic functions of government is building and maintaining roads.

“The responsible thing to do here is to try to keep up with our roads as best we can.”

General fund budget

McEntire voted in the same fashion last December — no on the general government levy increase and yes on the road fund levy.

Clallam County's $32.37 million general fund budget was balanced by using $388,324 in reserves.

The budget eliminates furlough days and restores a 37.5-hour workweek for most nonemergency-service workers.

The detailed budget can be seen at www.clallam.net.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: December 04. 2013 7:06PM
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