Dorothy Crossman rides up on her bike to turn in her ballot on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Dorothy Crossman rides up on her bike to turn in her ballot on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Everett leaders plan to ask voters for property tax increase

City officials will spend weeks hammering out details of a ballot measure, as Everett faces a $12.6 million deficit.

EVERETT — Everett voters will likely see a property tax levy lid lift on their ballot in August, seeking to address the city’s projected $12.6 million budget deficit in 2025.

City staff and council members will spend the next month hammering out the details of the ballot measure they must submit to the county elections office by May 3.

If voters approve the measure in August, the levy lid lift would go into effect in January 2025.

At a council meeting Wednesday evening, City Finance Director Susy Haugen presented a range of levy options.

City Finance Director Susy Haugen presented data on the percent increase of taxpayers’ total property tax bill and the monthly and annual cost to the average taxpayer on March 27, 2024 (City of Everett)

City Finance Director Susy Haugen presented data on the percent increase of taxpayers’ total property tax bill and the monthly and annual cost to the average taxpayer on March 27, 2024 (City of Everett)

To balance the budget for 2025, the city would have to increase voters’ total property tax bill by about 5.6% at minimum for the average homeowner, a move that would bump up revenue by $13.1 million.

The percentage increase is of taxpayers’ total bill, which includes taxes paid to the county, schools and other bodies, not just to the city of Everett.

What does that mean for the average taxpayer? An increase of $250 per year, according to city estimates.

Officials should no longer consider any levy lid lifts that would leave the city with a deficit next year, City Council member Paula Rhyne said at the meeting Wednesday.

Council members Scott Bader and Ben Zarlingo suggested the council go further and rule out options that don’t solve the deficit for at least two years.

City Finance Director Susy Haugen presented data on the estimated deficit reduction and number of years until the deficit returns on March 27, 2024 (City of Everett)

City Finance Director Susy Haugen presented data on the estimated deficit reduction and number of years until the deficit returns on March 27, 2024 (City of Everett)

In recent months, city leaders have considered three options to deal with the city’s deficit. The tax increase was one. Council members also considered allowing Sno-Isle Libraries to annex the city’s library system, or allowing the city fire department to merge with a regional fire authority.

At a council meeting last week, Haugen recommended the lid lift, noting it’s the only option that could kick in as soon as next year. She recommended the council keep working on the other two alternatives, but said they would take more time to organize.

“This is obviously one of the most important votes that you, as a council, have considered in years,” Mayor Cassie Franklin said at last week’s meeting.

Council meetings in April, when city leaders will be working out the ballot measure, will be “a real opportunity for us to hear from the public,” she said.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Rhyne said the mayor had done “an incredible job” making difficult budget cuts.

“We all know that there is nothing left to cut and we need to solve this problem,” she said, “instead of just kicking the can down the road.”

Sophia Gates: 425-339-3035; sophia.gates@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @SophiaSGates.

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