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County Council overrides Reardon's veto, raises road tax

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By Noah Haglund
Herald Writer
EVERETT -- The Snohomish County Council on Wednesday voted to override County Executive Aaron Reardon's veto of a property-tax increase in unincorporated areas to pay for road improvements.
The vote was 4-1 to revive the 1 percent hike in the roads levy. The four Democrats on the council all voted to overturn Reardon's action. Only Republican Councilman John Koster voted no.
"If we don't keep up with these repairs, they're going to be a lot more expensive in the future," Council Chairman Dave Somers said.
Reardon last week approved the county's overall 2012 budget but vetoed a 1 percent hike in the county road's levy. The increase applies to the total property tax collected from unincorporated areas, not to individual tax bills.
The levy increase is expected to generate an extra $525,000 next year for roads. As a result, the owner of a house assessed at $300,000 would pay an extra $5.04 in property taxes in 2012.
Koster supported Reardon's veto, in part, because he said it's a bad time to raise any taxes. Reardon said the same thing in a letter he sent to the council about his veto.
Koster also objected to the county using roads tax to support a new public works fund for projects that have yet to be identified. He said that many of those projects are likely to be in cities, even though the money to pay for them is coming from people in unincorporated areas.
"Nobody even knows what those projects are at this point," Koster said.
It would be better, he said, to use tax dollars for top transportation projects already identified by the county's long-term transportation planners.
"That's what people expect us to do," he said.
Councilman Dave Gossett said Reardon's office has failed to make adequate plans to maintain and improve the county road system. The tax increase, he said, would help restore some of the road and bridge projects on the county's to-do list for the next six years. About a third of those projects have either disappeared or been delayed.
Such steps are necessary, Gossett said, for the area to attract airplane makers and other desirable employers.
"If we want to continue to be an aerospace center, we have to have a transportation system that works," Gossett said.
The county roads levy has stayed at the same level for the past two years. It increased by 1 percent each year in 2007, 2008 and 2009.
Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465,
Story tags » TaxesCounty CouncilCounty executive

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