Yacolt revenue levy fails to win approval

By Tyler Graf, Columbian county government reporter

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A one-year levy that would have raised $78,000 in additional revenue for Clark County's smallest incorporated community did not pass on Election Day.

Proposition 1 needed to receive a supermajority -- or at least 60 percent of the vote in favor -- to pass, but that two-thirds figure is nearly exactly what the levy received in opposition.

"It looks like we'll have to work on revenue generating," said Town Councilor Rick Urias.

Urias said he had expected the levy to perform better than it did based on what he'd heard from Yacolt residents at town council meetings. They seemed willing to spend money to maintain services, he said. The levy called for a temporary boost to property taxes of $1 per $1,000 of assessed value.

The levy was placed on the ballot to gauge what residents thought about raising property taxes.

Officials in the town of 1,566 warned that without the extra money they will likely have to make further cuts to municipal services, including town events, while potentially cutting one full-time position. However, town leaders say they don't know exactly what the long-term impacts of the levy's defeat will be.

The town council will start discussing Yacolt's 2013 budget this week. Town leaders will likely have a budget completed by mid-December, Urias said.

Officials proposed the levy after years of financial cutbacks.

Mayor Jeff Carothers said last month that Yacolt is bound by the fact that the majority of the town's budget comes from property taxes from homeowners. Officials estimate property taxes will be down by nearly 17 percent in 2012 over 2011 figures as the lingering effects of the recession continue to depress property values.

The town's current property tax rate is $2.15 per $1,000 and accounted for $209,094 in tax revenue in 2011.

Carothers said the town had lost substantial shared money in recent years, including a loss in state liquor tax revenue.

And the town lost an estimated $24,000 after it scrapped a septic inspection program earlier this year.