Other benefits of annexation include greater consistency of development standards and related codes within a community, and, in theory at least, better communication between citizens and a smaller government that's closer to home.
Bothell's proposed annexation of approximately 5.6 square miles of land (and about 22,000 residents) to its north, east and west in Snohomish County fits those policy goals. We think citizens in the annexation area would be well served by approving the proposal, which appears on the April 17 ballot. It's a second effort by annexation supporters, including the city of Bothell, having lost by a 53-47 margin in November.
To be clear, we are not suggesting that the area suffers currently from inferior police, fire, or other services. Contrary to suggestions by some annexation proponents, the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office serves the area well, as do three different fire agencies. But we believe the Bothell Police Department and Bothell Fire Department can also provide effective protection, and that the city has planned effectively on both counts.
The city has a built-in incentive to follow through with excellent police and fire service. It hardly wants to bring 22,000 new residents into its jurisdiction, only to make them unhappy. Elected officials know better than anyone how self-defeating that would be.
Fire District 1, however, which currently serves the west and northwest parts of the annexation area, doesn't buy it. Commissioners and union officials argue that the city's promises to maintain current service levels can't be trusted.
Specifically, they worry that the city will close Fire Station 22, in the northwest corner of the annexation area, after five years. But given recent budget cuts by Fire District 1 (which were announced the day after the November annexation vote), it's hard to see how the district can make credible promises more than five years out, either.
As far as taxes, on average, homeowners would see their total tax bill go down modestly if the annexation is approved. Utility taxes would be higher, but current average property taxes would go down by more.
From a general, long-term perspective, annexations like this one make sense. County governments, as the Growth Management Act envisions, should, over time, adopt more of a rural-services focus. Urban dwellers should be served by a city government with a discretely urban, and local, focus.
It's the best long-term assurance of responsive local government.
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