Yacolt will take a hit on taxes or services

Voters must choose whether to pay or to accept less from town

By Tyler Graf, Columbian county government reporter

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Yacolt wants some extra cash, and the town government is asking its property owners whether they're willing to pony up. Voters will make the decision in the Nov. 6 election.

After years of reductions to its budget, the town government is proposing a one-year levy that would temporarily boost property taxes for additional money to maintain current services. The levy, known as Resolution 479, appears on Yacolt residents' ballots, which the Clark County elections department mailed Monday.

The levy calls for a temporary one-year tax increase of $1 per $1,000 of assessed property value, which would generate about $78,000 in additional revenue. The increase would come on top of Yacolt's current property tax rate of $2.15 per $1,000 of assessed value, which generated $209,094 in 2011, including the collection of some past-due taxes.

Without the extra money, the town of 1,566 could lose a part-time employee and see a reduction of municipal services, including annual events, said Mayor Jeff Carothers.

He said officials don't want to "go out and raise a bunch of taxes," but will leave that decision to voters.

The levy request comes as the town government continues to struggle with generating enough revenue to keep pace with inflation and the costs of providing services. The government's budget has dropped from $919,809 at the beginning of 2011 to $696,082 in 2012, including some restricted funds.

Carothers said there were reasons for the reductions, including a loss in state liquor tax revenue.

On top of that, the town lost an estimated $24,000 after it scrapped a septic inspection program. Some residents had objected to the town's performing the inspections, and the town council agreed to scuttle it.

Meanwhile, 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. They won't be certain until the beginning of November, when the county completes its assessments.

Carothers said Yacolt is bound by the fact that the majority of the town's budget comes from property taxes from homeowners, making the levy necessary.

"That's all affecting the town's budget. And when you receive less shared revenue from the state, that takes away from our budget," Carothers said. "We're a town, not a city, so we don't have all these large businesses to draw from."