Ferndale proposes tax hike for new police officer

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDNovember 15, 2013 

FERNDALE - Better sales tax revenue signals the city is emerging from the Great Recession, but Ferndale still needs to raise taxes to make ends meet and accommodate growth, according to the proposed city budget for 2014.

If the City Council approves, officials would use an additional $45,500 in property tax revenue to help pay for a new police officer who would be hired mid-2014, said city Finance Director Mark Peterson.

The public will have a chance to weigh in on the proposal to raise property tax revenue by 2 percent at a hearing at 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 18, at council chambers, 5694 Second Ave.

A second hearing on the full budget will take place at the same meeting. The council is expected to decide how much to raise property tax revenue at Monday's meeting. The full budget is scheduled to be approved in December.

Cities are allowed to increase property tax revenue by up to 1 percent a year, plus any "banked capacity" from years when they didn't increase the tax.

With a 2 percent increase, the owner of a $250,000 home would pay an additional $10.37 next year in property tax, assuming the home value doesn't change and the city has no new construction or annexations.

The solid-waste tax levied on Ferndale's two transfer stations is going up next year, from 12 to 12.5 percent. The council voted for the tax hike in May to help repay a bond issued for construction of a new library near City Hall.

City officials lean heavily on the solid-waste tax for everyday expenses. The tax heavily subsidizes the street fund, used to meet basic costs such as road maintenance, street sweeping and snow removal. Revenue from the solid-waste tax is increasing - another sign of a growing economy - and Peterson is counting on it to support the new police officer in the long term.

With tax revenue trending upward, Peterson anticipates 2013 will end with a surplus of less than $1,000.

The proposed budget calls for spending a combined $13,050, same as this year, on four social service agencies: Ferndale Food Bank, Ferndale Senior Center, Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services of Whatcom County, and the Northwest Youth Services teen court.

Reach RALPH SCHWARTZ at ralph.schwartz@bellinghamherald.com or call 715-2298.

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