Gold Bar to stay a city, put tax hike on ballot

GOLD BAR — The financially-strapped city of Gold Bar won’t place on the ballot a measure to disband.

The council voted 4-1 on Tuesday night against such a move.

Instead, the council decided to ask voters if they are willing to back a tax levy that would help pay legal costs to defend the city from lawsuits related to serial public records requests. Such a measure would appear on the November ballot.

About 30 people from Gold Bar were on hand Tuesday evening to share their thoughts about whether to disincorporate the century-old city.

Contentious disputes over the city’s handling of records have created a clamor out of proportion with this diminutive Skykomish Valley city of about 2,000 souls.

The cost to defend the city in those cases may approach $100,000 this year, city staff have estimated. That’s about one-sixth of Gold Bar’s entire operating budget.

Mayor Joe Beavers said the way the state public records act now is enforced can bankrupt small cities.

The city on Tuesday considered two resolutions.

The first was to authorize a ballot measure raising property taxes by $1 per $1,000 in assessed value in 2013. That would generate an estimated $113,000 to cover legal costs.

The second was to authorize the city to disincorporate and be absorbed by Snohomish County once all assets and liabilities have been processed by an appointed receiver.

If the city disincorporated, it would have been the first time in 40 years that has happened in Washington. The last time was when the community of Westlake, near Moses Lake, went by the legal wayside in 1972.

Snohomish County staff had begun to explore the impacts to the county if Gold Bar disincorporated, Deputy County Executive Gary Haakenson said. It would mainly involve the county taking over road maintenance. The impact to the average taxpayer would likely be negligible.

If it disincorporated, Gold Bar would have been similar to local communities such as Silvana and Startup that are well-established, but lack a municipal government.

The biggest impact to the county at large, Haakenson said, likely would be lost revenue for the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, which currently polices the city through a contract.

The general election is Nov. 6. The deadline for the city to submit the ballot measures to the Snohomish County Auditor is Aug. 7.

“The election is not until November,” Beavers wrote in an email. “Maybe something will happen between then and now. Maybe a retired Microsoft executive will write a big check. Any other ideas?”

Eric Stevick contributed to this story.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

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