We supported San Juan County’s property tax levy five years ago and we are endorsing it again now.
While we don’t disagree with opponents who say the county needs to make structural changes, we don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water. And making cuts to the discretionary programs that are funded by this levy would be a major disservice to our communities.
Here is a little background.
Proposition 1 would replace the 2009 property tax levy lid lift that is going to expire in 2015. The renewal would end in 2020 and will produce the same amount of revenue as the current levy.
The levy is 18 cents per $1,000 assessed value. For average homeowner, the cost is between $5 and $7 per month. The amount generated is 20 percent of the county’s general fund property tax.
The money will go towards critical programs like senior services on all three major islands; WSU Extension programs; operation of county parks; support for county fair; public health services on all three islands; work release program; victim services; emergency management services; maintenance of county buildings and grounds and Islands’ Oil Spill Association equipment assistance.
Back when the county first asked for this levy, the “rainy day” fund was at zero. Now it is at $800,000 and we want to see it keep growing – which the council intends to do if the levy is approved again.
To those who say the county’s expenditures are too high, we offer the following information.
The county has cut back 30 employees since 2009 and the current council says it is committed to restructuring the county government – one step at a time. They are currently looking at overhauling the permitting department for better efficiency.
The San Juans are unique in terms of the cost of living and doing business. We also have the fourth lowest sales tax in the state. In addition, the county had a 19.5 percent increase in health care costs last year. For 2015, it will go up another 10 percent. Also on the horizon: higher labor and industry costs from the state.
Another fact to consider: the overall county budget may look higher than other rural counties due to state funding that is earmarked for specific programs or public works projects.
Approving this levy will keep vital local programs running. Could we run a bare bones county government? Sure. But do we want to live in communities that don’t care for seniors, oil spills or victims of crime?