Thursday, January 26, 2023
Jan. 26, 2023

Linkedin Pinterest

Camas City Council divided over taxes

Council OKs utility tax, knocks down property tax increase

By
Published:

When it comes to collecting revenues that help fund the city’s basic services, the Camas City Council is a house divided.

Council members split their revenue-related votes on Nov. 21 — knocking down a 1 percent increase to the city’s property tax levy for the general fund, while approving a 1 percent increase on the city’s property tax levy that funds the city’s emergency medical services as well as a new, 2 percent tax on the city’s water, stormwater, sewer and solid waste utilities.

City staff have warned city officials for several months that, without increasing and diversifying its revenues, the city faces a structural deficit — when its baseline expenditures are greater than its revenues — within the next few years.

The 1 percent increase to the property tax levy that funds the city’s fire, police, parks, library, streets, cemetery, court and community development services, would have collected an additional $143,097 in 2023, and cost the owner of a $624,000 house an additional $14 a year, or around $1.17 a month.

The council voted 4-3 against the 1 percent property tax increase for the city’s general fund, with Councilmembers Don Chaney, Tim Hein, Leslie Lewallen and John Nohr voting against the increase.

City officials could “bank” the 1 percent increase and impose it at a later time, but city finance director Cathy Huber Nickerson has warned that forgoing the annual increase means the city will miss out on the “compounding” effect connected to the annual increase on the city’s tax levy amount.

“When you look at 10 years, that’s $700,000 to $800,000 that you’ve lost and can never recover,” Huber Nickerson told the council on Nov. 7. “That’s one (full-time employee), or up to seven or eight (full-time employees) that you’ve lost, if you go out 10 years … I strongly encourage you to consider that lost opportunity.”

Though they knocked down the annual 1 percent increase to the city’s property levy for general fund services, council members voted 6-1, with Lewallen the sole “no” vote, in favor of a 1 percent increase on the city’s property tax levy to fund emergency medical services in Camas. This increase will collect an additional $24,635 in 2023, and cost the average Camas homeowner less than $3 a year.

The council also split its vote on a proposed 2 percent tax on the city’s water, sewer, solid waste and stormwater utilities that would add an additional $1,051,119 to the city’s general fund over the 2023-24 biennium and cost a typical Camas family with a bimonthly utility bill of $356 an additional $3.56 a month. The council approved the new 2 percent utility tax in a 4-3 vote — Chaney, Hein and Lewallen voted against the tax — and set conditions that rebates and exceptions be given to qualifying low-income residents, and that the new tax will “sunset” or end with the creation of a regional fire authority or by Dec. 31, 2024, whichever comes first.

The public hearings on the three tax increases drew a larger-than-normal crowd to the council’s regular meeting Nov. 21, with many in attendance urging the council to vote down the tax increases, saying the taxes — which, combined, would have cost the average Camas homeowner around $5 a month — would harm city residents.

Loading...