Arlington residents no fans of higher taxes, fees

ARLINGTON — People here are pitching ideas, any ideas, other than raising fees and taxes to solve the city’s budget problems.

“I feel betrayed and disgusted with government. We can’t have more taxes. I have been here two years and I probably will have to put my house up for sale,” Phil Lane said. “I know the economy is part of the problem. But the city has not used what it has for alternate forms of income. Let’s have an eagle feeding station by the river and charge people to see it. That’s an untapped resource.”

Council members and city staff listened a week ago to Lane and a handful of other angry citizens blast the city’s proposed revenues to balance the 2012 budget. Tonight council members plan to review those comments as they continue to grapple with city finances.

While the city’s population has grown by 4,000 people since 2003 to almost 18,000, Arlington’s sales tax and building permit revenues have dropped to the levels of 2003 and remain flat, assistant city administrator Kristin Banfield said. The revenue loss has resulted in an anticipated $2 million budget deficit.

City officials came up with spending cuts of $1.26 million — including unpaid employee furloughs, no raises and lost jobs — to lower the budget deficit to $740,000.

Further spending cuts would include layoffs of as many as 16 employees, Banfield said. The number of city employees has decreased during the past three years from 160 to 140, she said.

The loss of more employees could result in the closure of a fire station, increased emergency response times from police and fire departments, severely decreased street and parks maintenance, reduced hours and services at City Hall, along with a curtailed ability to support, retain and recruit new business to the city, she said.

In order to balance the budget and deal with the remaining deficit, the city is left to consider increased utility rates as well as a vehicle tab fee and a voter-approved sales tax increase, Banfield said.

The proposal is to raise cable TV, garbage, sewer, stormwater and water utility rates by 3 percent and electricity rates by 1 percent. The estimated monthly household utility bill would increase $7.27 a month or $87.24 a year.

The city also plans to raise its portion of property tax collection by 1 percent and to ask voters to agree to a one-tenth of 1 percent sales tax increase for police and fire service. The vehicle tab fee proposed is $20 to help pay for road maintenance and construction.

In her budget message to residents, Mayor Margaret Larson said the proposed revenue package likely would cost a family of four making $60,000 about $131 a year or about $11 per month.

If voters are willing to raise sales tax revenue by an additional one-tenth of 1 percent in the new year for road maintenance, the vehicle tab fee could be dropped before it’s ever collected.

Nonetheless, the city needs more revenue, Larson said.

“Without this additional funding, the city will have no choice but to reduce the level of service we currently provide to our citizens and businesses,” Larson said.

Former city councilwoman Bea Randall begged the council last week to consider the plight of utility rate payers. One of her grown children lost a job and has moved back in with Randall and her husband, who live on a fixed retirement income.

“I know your struggle over the budget,” she told the council. “But this is not the time to raise utility rates.”

Rocket Alley grill and bowling alley owner Steve Saunders said he works 100 hours a week and can’t seem to get ahead. Rising utility rates aren’t going to help, he said.

“Where does it end?” Saunders asked. “But if you do decide to cut back on services, please don’t cut public safety. Cut from the top of your administration.”

A group of city employees sent a letter to the City Council in October asking them to consider that most staff members live in the city and already have agreed to the loss of cost-of-living pay increases, unpaid furlough days each month, higher insurance premiums and increased work loads.

Is it fair to put more employees out of work when the people of Arlington could help shoulder the budget deficit with $11 a month, the Employee Representation Board asked.

“We understand that tax increases are difficult for everyone,” the letter said. “Please consider the fate of city employees who could potentially lose their jobs … a very grim and severe outlook.”

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; gfiege@heraldnet.com.

Budget talk

Arlington City Council plans to talk about the 2012 budget at its workshop meeting at 7 tonight in council chambers, 110 E. Third St. The council has a public hearing on the budget set for 7 p.m. Nov. 21, also in the council chambers. More information about the 2012 budget is available on the city’s website: www.arlingtonwa.gov.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee speaks with special ed Pre-K teacher Michelle Ling in her classroom at Phantom Lake Elementary School in Bellevue, Wash. Tuesday, March 2, 2021. (Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times via AP, Pool)
Governor: Educators are now eligible for coronavirus vaccine

“This should give educators more confidence,” Jay Inslee said. Other frontline workers could soon be next.

A view of the courtyard leading to the main entrance of the new Stanwood High building on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2020 in Stanwood, Washington. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Law gives Washington high school seniors leeway to graduate

Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill that can waive some requirements for students who were on track before the pandemic.

A Marysville Pilchuck football player sports a spear on his helmet as the Tomahawks took on Snohomish in the Wesco 3A Championship Friday evening at Quil Ceda Stadium on November 1, 2019. School district leaders may soon need to consider dropping Marysville Pilchuck High School’s mascot, the Tomahawks. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Should Marysville Pilchuck High drop the name ‘Tomahawks’?

A state bill would ban Native American mascots and symbols from schools — unless there is tribal permission.

About a dozen metal dinosaurs sit in the front yard of a home owned by Burt Mason and Mary Saltwick on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021 in Freeland, Washington. The couple are used to finding strangers in their yard and taking photos. Every year on their trip to Tucson, Burt and Mary bring home another figure  (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Dinos on Whidbey? This Freeland yard is a Jurassic Park

These creatures from long ago won’t chomp or chase you, and you’re welcome to visit.

Maryville Getchell High School students Madison Dawson, left, Kaden Vongsa and Jenasis Lee, who made a presentation to their school board discussing mental health, lack of resources and personal stories of their peers mental health struggles. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Students plead for better mental health support from schools

Three Marysville Getchell seniors want more counselors and improved training for staff.

Parked tractor-trailers line the side of 40th Avenue NE on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021 in Marysville, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Worker wonders why dead end Marysville road is rough and rutty

A stretch of 40th Avenue NE is mostly used for heavy trucking and isn’t in line for repairs soon.

Camano Island shooting leaves father dead; son arrested

Dominic Wagstaff, 21, was taken into custody late Sunday for investigation of the murder of Dean Wagstaff, 41.

Jean Shumate (left), seen here during a February 2019 school board meeting, will retire June 30 after 20 years at the Stanwood-Camano School District superintendent. (Skagit Valley Herald)
Stanwood-Camano superintendent to retire after 20 years

Jean Shumate has been at the helm longer than any other superintendent in Snohomish County.

Snohomish County Council delays education spending vote

The council is now slated to decide next week on the measure, which targets a pre-K learning gap.

Most Read