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These cities are seeking property tax increases in their next budgets

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Property owners in Bellingham, Blaine and Ferndale may pay 1 percent more for city taxes, but the Whatcom County executive isn’t asking for a tax increase this budget cycle.

In Bellingham, the City Council is being asked to consider the 1 percent increase that’s allowed by state law each two-year budget cycle, Budget Manager Forrest Longman said in a phone interview with The Bellingham Herald.

That amounts to $9 annually for the owner of a $400,000 home, which is about the median price in Bellingham.

“It’s a modest increase, and it’s the same one we take every year,” Longman said.

He said Bellingham has about $1 million in “banked capacity,” or taxes that haven’t been levied.

No one spoke at a public hearing on Bellingham’s two-year budget on Oct. 22, and the council will consider the spending plan for 2019-2020 on Nov. 5.

Public comment will still be taken, city officials said at the Oct. 22 meeting.

Whatcom County isn’t asking for a tax increase for this two-year budget, said County Executive Jack Louws.

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“I have submitted to council a balanced budget that does not include an increase,” Louws said in an email. “Now, council will review and it will be up to them to revise if they feel they need to.”

A 1 percent increase would bring an extra $300,000 to the county, said Arden Landry, who is Louws’ executive assistant and communications coordinator.

Banked capacity from prior years is approximately $3.1 million, Landry said.

Bellingham Herald files show that in November 2016, Louws vetoed a 1 percent tax increase that the County Council had approved 5-2 for its 2017-2018 budget.

Blaine’s 2019 budget is proposing the 1 percent increase in property taxes, Finance Director Jeffrey Lazenby said in an email.

It would be an estimated $6 annual increase for the owner of a $400,000 home, Lazenby said.

A public hearing on the proposal was Oct. 22 and the City Council will consider the tax ordinance Nov. 13 and Nov. 26, when additional public comment will be heard, he said.

Everson’s City Council will be considering its 2019 budget in late November, said Clerk/Treasurer Melanie Dickinson.

She said it wasn’t known if a tax increase will be recommended.

Public hearings will be in late November and early December, she said in an email.

Ferndale’s budget figures are incomplete, but the city will be seeking a 1 percent increase for 2019, the city’s spokesman Riley Sweeney said in a phone interview.

Lynden Mayor Scott Korthuis is still considering whether to take the 1 percent tax increase for 2019, Finance Director Anthony Burrows said in an email.

Burrows said the preliminary 2019 budget will have its first public hearing on Nov. 5.

If no tax increase is sought, Lynden will bank that capacity for future needs, Burrow said.

Nooksack Clerk/Treasurer Virginia Arnason said in a phone interview that the city will begin discussing its 2019 budget in mid-December, with final consideration toward the end of 2018.

In Sumas, Finance Director Shelley Schultz said by email that it’s uncertain whether the council will seek a tax hike when it holds a public hearing on the proposed budget Nov. 26.

“The 2019 preliminary budget will not include a property tax increase,” Schultz said. “That does not mean the final 2019 budget will not include a property tax increase.”

Robert Mittendorf: 360-756-2805, @BhamMitty
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