CAMAS — Despite strong objections from Councilor Jennifer Senescu, the Camas City Council has approved taking the annual 1 percent property tax and emergency medical services tax levy increases allowed under state law.
Senescu said she “can’t agree with these taxes and these levies.”
“We can’t keep taxing our citizens,” Senescu said Monday, before casting the lone “nay” vote.
Camas Finance Director Cathy Huber Nickerson explained to councilmembers during a Nov. 6 workshop that the 1 percent increases do not signify a 1 percent increase to individual tax rates but, rather, impact the overall tax levy amount collected by the city.
Huber Nickerson said taking the 1 percent tax levy increase would add about $146,000 to the city’s general fund, expand the city’s overall tax levy to $15.08 million and increase the city’s property tax rate from $1.84 to $1.86 per $1,000 of assessed property value.
Last year, the council voted 4-3 to forego the 1 percent property tax levy increase in 2023. Instead, the council decided to “bank” the levy increase with the option of using that banked capacity later for a dedicated purpose.
On Monday, the council voted 5-1 — with Senescu voting “nay” and Councilwoman Leslie Lewallen having left the meeting early due to illness — to take the allowed 1 percent property tax levy increase for 2024 and use the banked capacity from 2023, for a total tax levy increase of 1.65 percent.
The council also opted Monday to dedicate the additional funds to maintaining and preserving streets.
The council also voted 5-1, with Senescu again voting “nay,” to take a 1 percent levy increase for its emergency medical services (EMS) levy. That increase will add $25,453 to the total EMS levy amount and increase the EMS levy tax rate to a little more than 32 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.
The annual impact on the owner of a median-priced ($649,124) home in Camas for the general fund and EMS levies is $1,430 ($1,217 for general fund and $213 for EMS) annually. Huber Nickerson said the taxes likely will be $145 less than that same homeowner paid in 2023, due to a decrease in home values.
Camas officials also approved an interlocal agreement that is expected to help Camas, Washougal, Clark County, and other regional small cities and towns gather data to help guide climate change planning.
Community Development Director Alan Peters said Camas will need to join other jurisdictions across Washington in meeting the goals of House Bill 1181, which calls for Washington government entities to “plan for climate change impacts as part of their comprehensive planning processes” and requires state governments to include plans to reduce greenhouse gases and become more resilient in the face of expected climate change disasters, such as flooding, drought, wildfires and extreme heat.
Peters said the city of Camas is just beginning its required comprehensive plan update and has received a $500,000 state grant to address the climate change requirements in its new comprehensive plan and implement future climate-related policies.
The city will use $40,000 from its $500,000 state grant to pay for Camas’ share of the agreement, Peters said Nov. 6, adding that Clark County will administer the contract.
Lewallen said she had questions about the climate agreement and asked to pull the issue from the council’s consent agenda, but she later left the meeting before it could be discussed.
In the end, all of the members present voted to sign the interlocal climate pact.