EVERETT — If you live in an unincorporated neighborhood east of Silver Lake, the city of Everett may soon be knocking on your door.
The Everett City Council on Wednesday voted 4-2 in favor of a resolution that sets in motion an outreach effort to gauge how supportive people in that area are of joining the city through annexation.
“This is something looked at for a while,” City Councilman Mark Olson said. He added that people in urban areas are better served by cities than they are by Snohomish County.
A study released last month concluded that if Everett wanted to cash in on a 10-year state sales tax rebate for mega-annexations, stretching its boundaries east of Silver Lake made the most financial sense.
Still, even with the sales tax incentive, the analysis predicts Everett would begin running deficits if it extended police, fire and other services to the Eastmont, Hilton and Ruggs lake areas.
The next step is likely a scientific poll of residents in the area to assess how willing they would be to vote in favor of an annexation. There are about 12,500 people in the area the city is considering annexing.
The 47-page fiscal analysis by Berk &Associates of Seattle concludes the neighborhoods east of Silver Lake could generate enough tax revenue to maintain fire service at current levels provided by Fire District 1. The area would pay for police service at a higher level compared to that now offered by the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, the study also suggests.
Everett City Councilwoman Brenda Stonecipher, an accountant and former consultant, voted against the resolution.
She questioned the study’s methodology, which did not include the cost of acquiring land for parks or other capital expenses, such as building or leasing a new police substation.
Factoring other expenses, Stonecipher said annexing the areas would wipe out a projected budget surplus and wind up costing Everett taxpayers $25.4 million by 2025.
“As I look at this, it doesn’t make a bit of financial sense,” she said.
One of the main reasons that annexation is being considered is a 10-year sales tax rebate that would allow the city to keep tens of millions of dollars that would otherwise go to the state.
For cities that annex 10,000 people by 2010, it extends a one-tenth of 1-cent sales tax credit for 10 years. That amount doubles for cities that annex 20,000 or more people. With a massive state budget shortfall projected this year, it is unclear how willing lawmakers would be to extend the offer.
The tax rebate created in 2006 is the state Legislature’s attempt to help city’s with the financial sting of following the broad policy of the state Growth Management Act, which encourages cities to absorb urban areas and to provide essential services such as police and fire protection, parks and planning.
“We’re missing the boat here if we don’t take advantage of this tax credit,” Councilman Arlan Hatloe said.
Council President Drew Nielsen, who voted against the resolution Wednesday, said the state’s enticement was like following a candy bar at the end of a fishing pole into a dark alley.
“I fear we’re making a hundred-year decision based on a 10-year incentive,” he said.
City Councilman Paul Roberts said one of the greatest failures of the Growth Management Act is it does too little to help cities swallow urbanizing areas.
Nearly two decades after the growth act’s passage, tens of thousands of residents in Snohomish County live on islands of county land sandwiched between Everett, Mill Creek, Lynnwood and Mukilteo.
That’s because no one has seen a compelling enough financial incentive to take in those communities, including the relatively high-crime neighborhoods in south Everett near Mariner High School.
Keith Gitchel, a resident of the Greenwood Park, a community with about 150 homes north of Mill Creek, spoke in favor of annexation on Wednesday.
“The one area that we cannot get help in is in the area of police protection,” he said.
Reporter David Chircop: 425-339-3429 or firstname.lastname@example.org.