Woodway voters face levy on November ballot

By Evan Smith

Woodway voters face a tax levy on the Nov. 8 general-election ballot.

Here is voters’ guide material that will appear in voters’ pamphlets that will arrival in a few days and that local residents can see on the internet, clicking on “voters’ guide,” then clicking on “measures”:

City of Woodway Proposition No. 1

Ballot Title

Town of Woodway

Proposition No. 1

Levy to Support Police, Fire and Emergency Medical Services and Existing Town Operations

The Town Council of the Town of Woodway adopted Resolution No. 16-386 concerning property taxes to support Town operations. This proposition will increase the 2017 regular property tax levy to $2.48 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, and use this levy to compute subsequent levies. This increase is estimated to be $500 a year for a home with a 2016 assessed value of $1 million. These funds will be used to maintain existing Town operations (including police, fire, emergency medical services, road maintenance and administrative services). Should this proposition be:

Approved __

Rejected ___

Explanatory Statement

The Town’s largest source of revenue – property tax – generates approximately $1,072,000 annually. State law, enacted following the passage of Initiative 747, limits the growth of the Town’s property tax revenue to 1% – approximately $10,720 annually.

The Town’s largest single expense is its fire and emergency medical services contract with the Shoreline Fire Department. This contract is $497,000 per year and has increased by over 3% annually or $14,465. This contract, along with inflationary increases in the Town’s other expenses, has resulted in an average growth rate in Town expenditures in an amount in excess of the Town’s average increase in revenue.

Annually, the deficit between the growth in Town expenditures and Town revenues grows exponentially. Beginning last year, the Town’s expenses exceeded its revenues, and the Town’s reserves are estimated to be depleted in less than six years.

This levy will raise revenue sufficient to maintain existing Town services. The increase in property tax will depend on a home’s assessed value. The levy will increase the property tax on a home with a 2016 assessed value of $1M by approximately $500 per year.

Argument For

Demonstrated fiscal responsibility, local policy protective of community ideals, and commitment of a representative leadership are three factors I consider important when evaluating the benefits and stewardship of a property tax increase.

Woodway demonstrates an exemplary level of responsibility in those areas and is justified in its request to lift the tax levy limit to pay costs for general town operations and services including fire, medical, and police.

√ 68% of the operating revenue for our town is generated by property tax. This stable source of revenue is restricted to a 1% cap.

√ Expenditures, as we know, are increasing at a rate higher than 1%.

√ Proper funding is a responsible, protective and beneficial decision allowing the Town of Woodway to maintain current services and residents the comfort of pursuing individual interests and leadership.

Additional funds are needed to maintain the unique, responsible and independent nature of Woodway’s ideals, policies and residents. I consider tax levies carefully and am in favor of joining together with fellow residents of our town to properly fund Woodway.

Pro committee: Lisa Marquart

Argument Against

While the Mayor and the Town Council have historically done a good job of managing Woodway’s budget and preserving the ambience of our small town, they are stepping out-of-bounds in asking for a substantial 25% property tax increase. Woodway has a $1 million cash reserve fund and has just started running a $30,000/year deficit. Given the potential opportunity for significant incremental tax revenues from the Upper Bluff development (up to 36 new houses) and the Point Wells project, the Town can certainly afford to run a small deficit for a few years (or cut back on services to balance the budget) while gaining visibility into the potential incremental tax revenues from these two development projects. A “no” vote is low risk way to avoid a tax increase for a few years By voting ‘no’ on the proposed tax increase you will force the Town to pursue alternate means to control spending and taxes.

By voting ‘no’ on the tax increase you can send a message to the Mayor and Town Council that the following costs are excessive for our town of 466 houses and 1,335 residents:

over $6,000 for each fire or emergency medical dispatch

over $6,000 for each fire or emergency medical dispatch over $1,000 per house per year for fire/emergency medical services ($488,000 total/yr.)

over $500 per house per year for police protection ($240,000 total/yr.) over $250,000 per year to maintain 10 miles of roads

Please vote ‘no’ on the 25% property tax increase and send our politicians back to the drawing board.

Con committee: Bill Krepick

Rebuttal to Argument Against

Do Your Homework

  • 1) Increase = $.0.50/$1,000 on percent of assessed value that stays in Woodway
  • 2) Fire Services = contracting avoided additional $55,000 in costs. Police Services = experienced $40,000 cost increase. The current reserve, ability to contract and volunteer government cannot continue to alleviate increases in essential services with current 1% cap.
  • 3) Buildable bluff? Unknown. A formal development application has not been submitted. Could take years before revenue is realized. Vote Yes!

Pro committee: Lisa Marquart

Rebuttal to Argument For

A 25% tax increase is not needed. Woodway’s $1 million financial reserve can safely fund 2-3 years of existing services with a small $30,000/year deficit.

By 2018 the Upper Bluff development can bring in $300,000 incremental sales tax revenue and $72,000/year in new property tax revenue. This one strategic project can offset 6-8 years of deficit spending. Vote “no” on the tax increase and tell the politicians to cut costs and evaluate/implement new revenue sources.

Con committee: Bill Krepick

Evan Smith can be reached at schsmith@frontier.com.

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