City Council approves tax hike by 5-1 vote

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WALLA WALLA — The City Council approved a 1.73 percent revenue increase in property tax revenue for 2014 and, along with it, agreed to draft a resolution that could one day require 1 percent of all general funds go to streets.

“This tells the citizens we will annually, automatically put $250,000 into the street fund,” Council member Shane Laib said after making the motion to earmark future funds for roads. “We are not strapping the tax but we are strapping some of that money to get it back to that fund. And I will say again, for eight years it (road construction) has been the number one priority of citizens.”

The increase for next year will generate $87,000. The revenue will come from the state-allowed 1 percent increase for inflation and another 0.73 percent for new construction.

The discussion before Wednesday’s vote saw almost no debate among Council members. It was a stark contrast from their previous two meetings, where Council members spent hours reviewing and discussing if the city should opt for the increase.

At its Nov. 6 regular meeting, members voted four times but failed to agree on a tax rate for next year. Failed were motions that would have included the full tax increase but restricted it to roads, a full unrestricted increase, an increase of only new construction or no increase.

Council voted 5-1 on Wednesday to take the full 1.73 increase but restrict $50,000 to roads.

Laib cast the one dissenting vote. Mayor Jim Barrow was absent.

The increase will slightly augment city property tax revenues from $5,047,548 to $5,134,877 for 2014.

The increase will cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $4 more in property taxes next year.

As for dedicating 1 percent of future general fund budgets to roads, the Council voted 5-1 to have staff draw up the resolution to be voted on at its next meeting. Council member Barbara Clark cast the dissenting vote.

“We are going to be working on our two-year budget next year. And I think that we have indicated that we wanted to spend the money this year on [roads] ... And I think this is something that should be discussed as part of that,” Clark said.

The city’s general fund amounts to roughly $25 million each year and funds police, fire, city administration and numerous other services that are not enterprise-fund related. Enterprise funds are generated by water, sewer, trash and other city services where fees are collected to pay for them.

If approved, the resolution to dedicate 1 percent of the general fund to roads would result in about $250,000 going directly into the city’s street fund each year.

At their Dec. 4 meeting, Council members will also review and possibly vote on the 2014 budget.

Alfred Diaz can be reached at alfreddiaz@wwub.com or 526-8325.

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