Whatcom County proposes no property tax hike ahead of public hearings

The Whatcom County executive and council propose adding 16 new positions to the 2015 budget without raising property taxes.

The 2015 property-tax levies, and the complete two-year budget for 2015-16, will go to public hearings before the County Council on Tuesday, Nov. 25. The hearings will start shortly after 7 p.m. at council chambers in the county courthouse, 311 Grand Ave., Bellingham.

Even without a property tax hike, the county anticipates $2.2 million more in general fund revenue in 2015 compared to this year, due to property taxes from new construction and higher fee income (due largely to an accounting change).

The county’s new hires for 2015 include a fourth Superior Court judge, who will be appointed by the governor, and the judge’s support staff. The county also plans to hire technicians and road-crew workers to comply with stricter state stormwater rules.

A new emphasis of the council, starting in 2015, is a water action plan that includes the stormwater requirements and improving Lake Whatcom water quality. The water action plan will cost the county $2.7 million in 2015 and $1.3 million in 2016, according to a spreadsheet provided by the executive’s office. The larger expense in 2015 is for start-up costs including vehicles and equipment, said Tyler Schroeder, the executive’s special projects manager. The money for the water action plan will come from the county’s road and flood funds.

The executive’s proposed budget is at whatcomcounty.us/as/finance/budget.