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Everett may suspend cable TV tax

City leaders may suspend the $1 per month tax because the fund for the city station is healthy.

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EVERETT -- A tax added to Everett cable subscribers' bills may come to an end -- at least temporarily.
City leaders plan to talk Wednesday night about suspending a $1-per-month per subscriber tax designated to pay for Everett's public television equipment.
The City Council questioned whether Everett residents were being overtaxed after learning that $1.7 million of that cable tax money had accumulated in a fund. Around 30,000 households pay the monthly tax.
Spokeswoman Kate Reardon, who oversees Everett TV, said the administration put the topic on the agenda so the City Council can consider broader questions about the purpose and future of the city government channel.
"There's clearly an interest in a policy discussion," she said.
In March, city workers wanted the council to approve spending nearly half a million dollars to upgrade aging and obsolete TV equipment.
Everett TV broadcasts on Channel 29 for Frontier subscribers and Channel 21 for Comcast customers. It broadcasts City Council meetings, other government programs and several city-produced shows, including a monthly update from the mayor.
Most of the money would have been spent on what Reardon called the "brains" of the system -- things like software and computer components. The city last spent around $1 million in 2003 and 2004 on a major upgrade, and typically government TV stations upgrade equipment about every six years, she said.
But the upgrade idea went over with much of the council like a lead balloon.
Several members questioned the cost and specific purchases, such as new furniture for a television studio and a Teleprompter.
Councilwoman Brenda Stonecipher and Councilman Drew Nielsen wrote an opinion piece for The Herald that appeared Sunday, pointing out what they called "troublesome" aspects of the request. They cited an account balance so high that even if Everett made regular upgrades and stopped collecting the tax now, the tax money already collected wouldn't be depleted until 2035.
They analyzed January programming and found that most of it consisted of reruns of the mayor's monthly update.
"At this point what really needs to happen is we've got to figure out what we're doing to Everett TV," Stonecipher said Tuesday. "The real problem is there is no strategic plan."
That process ought to include people in the community who pay the tax, she said.
Reporter Debra Smith: 425-339-3197 or dsmith@heraldnet.com.

Meeting today
The Everett City Council plans to discuss Everett TV at its regular meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall chambers, 3002 Wetmore Ave.
Story tags » Everett

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