By Pat Jenkins
Between now and November, Eatonville town leaders will be hoping voters are in the mood for new taxes.
The Town Council decided last week to put a levy before voters in the general election Nov. 6. If the measure passes, it would add $1 per $1,000 of assessed valuation to homes and property inside the town and raise about $161,000 for the town’s beleagured budget.
The levy, which would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $100, was proposed by the town’s administration as a way to help offset an expected drop next year in funding through property taxes, and to prevent a possible reduction of emergency medical aid services.
The assessed value of property in Eatonville, as projected by the county’s assessor-treasurer, is $499,249 for 2013. That would be $68,079 less in property tax revenue than the town is getting this year. With the budget and revenue sources already stretched thin, the town would have to cut spending if the levy doesn’t pass. A leading possibility is the elimination of paramedics from the Fire Department if the levy doesn’t pass, according to Mayor Ray Harper.
Harper wanted the levy to be dedicated solely to public safety needs. But the council voted July 9 to earmark it for general expenses. A second council vote July 23 authorized the ballot measure and the amount of the levy.
Last week’s vote was 3-0 by Jim Valentine, Abby Gribi and Brenden Pierce. Council members Gordon Bowman and Bob Schaub were absent. The levy would be for one year. For any additional years, it would have to be renewed by voters in other elections.
A 60 percent yes vote is needed for the levy to pass.
The town has laid off workers and done other cost-cutting for the past year in an effort to keep the budget in line with expenses. The levy is the second major step toward the other side of balancing budgets – generating new revenue. The council created a transportation improvement district that allows the town to add $20 to vehicle registration fees and spend the money on street maintenance. The council hasn’t approved the fee, however. Council members last week, looking ahead to work on next year’s budget, said they’re reviewing options that will help with decisions on potential revenue and cuts.
If it passes, the local levy would be the second voter-approved tax boost affecting Eatonville in the past two years. Last November, voters countywide approved an increase of the county sales tax by one-tenth of 1 percent to pay for upgrading 9-1-1 emergency dispatch and communication systems.
An Eatonville School District levy was approved in April after it was defeated in February. The two-year levy will collect about $4.5 million per year to pay for teachers, aides and classroom materials, services such as transportation and school meals, and extracurricular activities, including sports.
Voters in the school district live within and outside the town of Eatonville. The town’s levy in November will involve only voters living inside the town limits.