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Tax decision faces town

9:17 am October 18th, 2012

Eatonville voters are deciding whether to boost property taxes to help improve the town’s finances.

A levy placed on the general election ballot by the Town Council will, if it passes when voting ends Nov. 6, add $1 per $1,000 of assessed valuation to homes and property and inject about $161,000 in additional tax revenue into the town’s budget.

To pass, the measure requires a yes vote of at least 60 percent. The levy would be in effect for one year. For any additional years, it would have to be renewed in other elections.

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. It also would help prevent a possible reduction of emergency medical aid services.

The assessed value of property in Eatonville for 2013, as projected by the county’s assessor-treasurer, is $499,249. That would be just over $68,000 less in property tax revenue than the town is receiving for 2012.

Officials say the town, already struggling with a budget deficit that has led to earlier layoffs and cost-cutting, would have to cut more if the levy doesn’t pass. Mayor Ray Harper has said the elimination of paramedics from the Fire Department would be a possibility.

Harper asked the council to specifically earmark the levy for public safety. But the council voted in July in favor of levy language calling for the measure to be used for general government expenses.

The distinction remains a sore subject for those who opposed the more vague proposal. At a council meeting Sept. 24, Councilman Gordon Bowman reiterated his disappointment. He said the best chance for it to pass among voters would have been with the purpose clearly identified as public safety.

The levy is the second major step by town officials toward 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 put the fee in effect, however..

Two other tax boosts affecting Eatonville have been approved by voters in the past 12 months. Last November, voters countywide approved an increase of the Pierce County sales tax by one-tenth of 1 percent to pay for upgrading 9-1-1 emergency dispatch and communication systems. And a two-year, $4.5 million Eatonville School District levy for educational uses and operations passed in April after it was defeated in February.

The town’s levy in November will involves only voters and property inside the town limits.

 

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