FERNDALE - The city will collect 3 percent more property tax in 2013 - an additional $65,000 for the city budget that will help pay for a new police officer, City Council members said.
The council voted 5-2 on Monday, Nov. 5, to approve the tax hike, the city's first property tax increase since 2009. Jon Mutchler and Lloyd Zimmerman were opposed.
Municipalities are limited to property tax increases of 1 percent a year but may take more if they deferred the increase in past years.
A 3 percent property tax increase is estimated to cost the owner of a $250,000 home $14.90 a year, according to city figures.
The Ferndale Police Department is one officer short of a full staff, and most council members agreed the additional safety the tax will buy was worth the additional cost to property owners.
"(The tax) actually is of more benefit to folks than it is a cost," council member Mel Hansen said.
An increase on another tax, possibly solid waste, is likely to be approved to fully pay for the new officer. The cost to the city is about $100,000 a year for an officer with family health benefits, Finance Director Mark Peterson said.
Mutchler agreed another police officer was needed, but he didn't agree the money should be raised through a property tax.
"The past Council had good reasons for toeing the line on taxes: an anemic economy and struggling homeowners. Those reasons persist today," Mutchler said in an email on Tuesday, Nov. 6.
"The entire revenue needed for an officer could have been raised through the city's solid-waste tax, impacting Ferndale residents by pennies and spread among all county garbage customers," Mutchler wrote.
Mutchler had asked the council to delay a decision on the property tax for two weeks, until all taxing options could be weighed at the same time. His suggestion was voted down.
Council member Cathy Watson supported the tax increase for general city expenses, not necessarily for a police officer.
"We talk about people keep paying more for everything. We keep paying more for everything, too, and we've got to have a little extra money," Watson said.