Clark County shoppers likely haven’t noticed, but a new sales tax went into effect on Jan. 1. The new tax is the public safety sales tax, which adds one penny for every $10 spent.
It might not seem like much, but the one-tenth of 1 percent sales tax is expected to bring in an additional $12 million in tax revenue each year. The county will get 60 percent of the revenue, or about $7.2 million annually. The cities will get 40 percent, or about $4.8 million, which will be split between the cities based on population.
All jurisdictions will receive slightly less in the first year of the program because distributions won’t begin until April. Clark County is expected to receive $6 million in 2023.
The county will be using the additional tax revenue to pay for a body and dash camera program at the Clark County Sheriff’s Office. County councilors also said they want to use the revenue for pay increases for sheriff’s deputies, improvements at the county jail and improved services at indigent defense and the county prosecutor’s office.
The county’s plans for the tax dollars aligns well with how the city of Ridgefield hopes to see the money spent, according to Ridgefield City Manager Steve Stuart. Ridgefield is expected to receive just under $200,000 annually.
“What we have talked about is ensuring that the revenue that is being generated in the cities that the county is receiving goes to help fund regional public safety priorities including the jail and court system,” Stuart said.
Without the money in hand, some cities have been reluctant to spend it just yet.
“The council hasn’t made any decisions as to how we’ll spend that money yet because we haven’t seen it. We are currently evaluating options for public safety enhancements that we’ll be taking to council for consideration in April,” Stuart said.
Stuart noted the city’s 2023 budget includes hiring two new police officers and that the Ridgefield Police Department will relocate to a new facility this year. The additional revenue could be used to offset those costs.
Unlike the county, the cities aren’t obligated to spend the additional tax revenue on body and dash cameras, but Stuart said that is one option the city council will consider; Ridgefield’s officers do not have body cameras. He said the department will be watching the Clark County Sheriff’s Office and Vancouver Police Department’s experiences with implementing similar programs before moving forward.
Vancouver is expected to receive the second largest portion of the annual tax revenue.
“The city anticipates receiving $3.8 million to $4 million per year from the sales tax approved by the voters,” Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle said.
The additional tax revenue has already been budgeted for specific expenses.
“In the 2023-24 budget, the city utilized the projected funds to fund nine new police officer positions, one of which is a member of the Homeless Assistance and Resources Team, as well as related support costs and equipment. We also added one FTE of a homeless outreach coordinator and funded annual operating costs of the Safe Stay villages,” McEnerny-Ogle said.
Like Vancouver, Battle Ground is looking to spend its additional tax revenue on hiring new police officers. Battle Ground is expected to receive approximately $370,000 annually.
“At this point, it looks like we’re focusing on covering the expenses we know are going to be increasing in the police department in 2023, which includes police personnel,” said Alisha Smith, communications manager for the city.
Smith said the city council previously approved hiring two additional police officers in 2023.
“That wasn’t originally included in the proposed budget. They will be using, at this point, those additional funds,” she said.
Smith noted the costs for recruiting, hiring and training new officers has increased as well as higher equipment costs for new recruits.
Like Ridgefield, Battle Ground’s police officers do not currently have body and dash cameras. But Smith said that is something the city council will be looking into later.