Ferndale council opts for smaller property tax hike, still adds new detective

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDNovember 19, 2013 

FERNDALE - The City Council rejected a proposal on Monday, Nov. 18, to raise property tax revenue by 2 percent in 2014 to help pay for a new police officer.

Instead, council voted 6-1 for a more modest 1 percent increase that will raise almost $23,000 next year. Council member Brent Goodrich voted no.

The additional 1 percent spurned by the council was to be earmarked for the police officer. The city still will hire a police detective in June 2014, according to the proposed budget, using leftover cash in the solid-waste tax fund.

The 1 percent hike that was approved will help pay for other new costs in 2014: a larger bill for emergency response from Fire District 7, a 21/2 percent raise for police, and money to make up for a federal domestic violence grant that was not renewed.

The property tax increase translates to an additional $5 in the property tax bill for a $250,000 home. The increase will almost certainly be less than that because property values are expected to appreciate, and new construction from the prior year will build up the property tax base.

The council narrowly defeated a suggestion to raise the solid-waste tax from 121/2 percent to 13 percent to make up for the smaller property tax increase. Council had voted earlier this year to raise that tax from 12 to 121/2 percent to help pay for the new library.

Recomp and RDS, the two transfer stations in Ferndale, pay the solid-waste tax. Council members have been inclined to look at the tax as a pain-free way to raise money because a tax increase does not come back to city residents. Ferndale has an agreement with SSC that fixes garbage fees through 2018.

The council might be growing wary of regularly increasing the solid-waste tax. The latest proposal to do so, on Monday, was voted down 3 to 4, with Keith Olson, Paul Ingram and Jon Mutchler voting in favor.

Because the city will be depleting the cash balance of the solid-waste fund to pay for the new police detective, the council can anticipate considering another increase to the solid-waste tax for 2016, said Finance Director Mark Peterson.

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

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