Port Angeles approves tax hike

PORT ANGELES — The Port Angeles City Council has voted unanimously to adopt a 1 percent property tax levy increase as well as an excess levy of 10 cents per $1,000 accessed valuation for the Firemen’s Pension.

The estimated value of this increase in 2023 will be $49,300 and the value of the Firemen’s Pension is estimated to be $244,300.

Port Angeles resident Matthew Rainwater objected to the council’s action on Tuesday night.

“I would encourage you all in this time of inflation and high gas prices, especially knowing that gas prices are going to increase an estimated $0.46, to give the citizens of this city a break for at least a year,” Rainwater said.

“Don’t vote to raise their taxes. Vote on the firemen’s pension, yes, but the other one percent, give us a break.”

The city currently has a Firemen’s Pension fund which was created for firefighters hired prior to March 1970, and their families.

“The city has the ability to levy for firefighters pension funds up to 22 cents in addition to its regular limits on its property tax levy,” Finance Director Sarina Carrizoasa said.

“We do still have members that are in that pension fund, so we are allowed to take an additional amount to help offset medical costs and costs associated with the payment for that pension fund,” Carrizosa said.

Carrizosa said it’s been many years since anything was done regarding the Firemen’s Pension fund.

“We haven’t taken anything from firemen pension in quite a few years, so we are looking to do that this year while we look at additional revenue options to balance our budget,” Carrizosa said.

Port Angeles council members said that increasing taxes is a necessary evil.

“Nobody loves taxes, but nobody likes potholes or not having the police or the fire department come when you need their help either,” said Council member Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin.

“So the general fund funds those things and those are all things that we want to support as a city. Unfortunately, our general fund revenues from the outside are taxes and about one-third of that is property tax,” he said.

There is a statutory limit on the increase that pencils out to $10 per $1,000 accessed valuation. From that amount the state takes $3.60, local districts take $5.90 and other entities take $0.50.

For the city of Port Angeles, that means the regular tax limit is about $3.22 per $1,000 accessed valuation with 23 cents for Firemen’s Pension for a total levy of $3.45.

In 2022 the regular levy was $2.02 with $1.43 in available capacity to meet the 1 percent increase.

For 2023 the estimated regular levy is $1.69 per $1,000 accessed valuation plus the 10-cent excess levy for Firemen’s Pension, leaving $1.66 available capacity to meet the 1 percent increase, making the levy rate for 2023 $1.79 per accessed valuation.

City staff is recommending that the 10-cent excess levy sunset after 10 years.

State law allows for property tax increases up to the implicit price deflator ( IPD), or to 1 percent, whichever is lower.

IPD is used to determine inflation in the economy and the most recent report from September 2022 showed IPD at nearly 6.5 percent.

“Because the IPD didn’t fall below 1 percent, it is not necessary for the city to pass a resolution declaring a substantial need for the increase,” Carrizosa said.

The last time the IPD was below the 1 percent mark was in 2020 when it was at 0.6 percent.

The city also is allowed to collect new construction property taxes.

For 2022 the estimated accessed value is $21.8 million with the tax value estimated at just over $44,000. Taxes from new construction are not tied to the 1 percent increase.

“It wasn’t on our accessed valuation for last year so this is almost like a catch-up,” Carrizosa said.

The city received an assessment from the county of its accessed valuation which showed it would get $2.9 billion in accessed valuation, a 21.1 percent increase from the previous year.

“When looking at our accessed values and our levy rate the two are tied together. So as accessed values go up or levy rate goes down, that ensures that we don’t collect more than the 1 percent,” Carrizosa said.

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Reporter Ken Park can be reached by email at kpark@peninsuladaily news.com.

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