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Mill Creek asks for tax hike to fund police, fire services

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By Amy Daybert
Herald Writer
Published:
MILL CREEK -- People in this city will decide whether to approve a new tax to help fund public safety.
Proposition 1 on the Nov. 6 general election ballot asks voters if they want the 0.1 percent sales and use tax increase.
The sales tax would cost one cent per $10 spent on taxable purchases and is expected to raise approximately $160,000 per year. It needs a simple majority to pass.
The city is facing a $1.9 million deficit in its 2013-14 biennial budget and needs the revenue to help plug that hole and avoid making cuts to its police department, said Tom Gathmann, acting city manager.
"We've been cutting staff for the past two budget cycles including the upcoming budget cycle," he said. "There have been no layoffs of any police officers. We're getting to the place where there aren't other places to cut if revenue continues to fall."
If passed, the state Department of Revenue allocates 85 percent of the tax proceeds to the city and 15 percent to Snohomish County. The county must use the money to fund criminal justice or fire protection service while the city must use one-third of their allocated tax money for criminal justice, fire protection or both services.
If passed, the tax would continue indefinitely until the City Council decides it's not needed, Gathman said.
The city contracts with Snohomish County Fire District 7 and plans to use all of the tax revenue to fund police protection services, Gathmann said. About $6 million and about $9.6 million in the proposed upcoming budget will be allocated to fund fire and police services, respectively. About $160,000 per year would be enough to fund two entry level police officers, Gathmann added.
The police department includes 23 commissioned officers, said Bob Crannell, the city's police chief.
"I don't necessarily think we have earmarked anything specific as far as positions go but I think we're about as lean as we're going to be able to get," he said. "Any time we're able to secure a longtime sustainable revenue source, that's a good thing. The voters get the opportunity to evaluate the services they have and hopefully continue to support them."
The Mill Creek City Council voted unanimously at a July 24 meeting to pass a resolution to put the proposition on the ballot. If approved, the tax would go into effect beginning April 1. The city wouldn't expect to begin receiving the revenue until June, Gathmann said.
Other decisions will need to be made to balance the 2013-14 biennial budget, Gathmann added. The City Council is scheduled to adopt a budget at its Dec. 4 meeting.
"This is just one of the many tools in our tool chest that we're trying to use to balance the budget," Gathmann said. "We thought this would be a viable option. Our community as a whole is strongly supportive of police and fire departments."

Amy Daybert: 425-339-3491; adaybert@heraldnet.com.
Story tags » Mill CreekTaxesLocal elections

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