By Pat Jenkins
Voters in Eatonville voters won’t let a boost of property taxes be the way the town improves its finances.
In results from the general election last week, a levy placed on the ballot by the Town Council was well short of the 60 percent yes vote required to authorize a tax increase. In fact, the no vote was at about 60 percent, leaving no doubt about the outcome.
The levy would have added $1 per $1,000 of assessed valuation to homes and property, injecting about $161,000 in additional tax revenue into the town’s beleagured budget, according to town officials.
The levy would jave been in effect for one year and required voter approval in future elections to continue. Had it passed, it would have cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $100.
The measure was proposed by the town’s administration and authorized by the council as a way to help offset an expected drop next year in funding through property taxes.
The assessed value of property in Eatonville for 2013, as projected by the Pierce County assessor-treasurer, is $499,249 – about $68,000 less in property tax revenue than the town is receiving for 2012.
That bad news is on top of a projected end-of-2012 budget deficit of $150,000 to $160,000. Mayor Ray Harper said the town has little choice but to carry the shortfall into next year. He will present a proposed budget for by Nov. 19 that will include proposals for dealing with the deficit. Impacts on the town employees are possible.
“I’m not ruling anything out, unfortunately,” Harper said.
It was expected that the town, which has experienced layoffs and other cost-cutting, would have to make more cuts if the levy didn’t pass. Harper has said the elimination of paramedics from the Fire Department would be possible, although he indicated last week that it’s unlikely.
Harper also said last week that a levy in support of the Fire Department should be considered for the 2013 election.
For the levy that voters just finished rejecting, Harper asked the council to specifically earmark it for public safety. But the council voted in July to designate the measure for general government expenses. The distinction was considered by some to be critical to the levy’s chances of passing. Before the election, Councilman Gordon Bowman said voters would be more likely to support funding for public safety.
Town officials have taken other steps to increase revenue to meet Eatonville’s expenses. 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 the town 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.
Only voters living within the limits of Eatonville could vote on the town levy.