Mill Creek approves keeping property taxes at status quo

  • By Katie Murdoch Enterprise editor
  • Tuesday, December 1, 2009 8:29pm


It took four tries — with some council members painstakingly changing their minds — but Mill Creek property owners will not see an increase in property tax rates next year. In fact, they could see their tax bills drop.

City Council members voted last week on three options concerning property taxes for 2010: to keep the rates the same, to adjust them for inflation, or to increase taxes by 1 percent.

The Council voted 4-2 to keep the rates at status quo for both property tax and EMS levies.

Mayor Terry Ryan and Councilman Mark Harmsworth were in the minority vote, favoring calculating property taxes to match the rate of inflation, or lack thereof, which is projected to drop to 0.85 percent for next year.

Councilwoman Rosemary Bennetts was absent.

Property tax revenues were budgeted for 2010 to come in at more than $5 million. The EMS levy was budgeted for $532,000.

Property owners are currently taxed $1.54 per $1,000 assessed value and 16 cents per $1,000 assessed value for the EMS levy.

The average Mill Creek homeowner is charged $775 per year. The average homeowner is projected to be charged $16 less next year due to a projected 12 percent drop in property values, according to city documents.

The Nov. 24 vote followed a public hearing where one Mill Creek resident urged the council to raise taxes by 1 percent.

Harmsworth acknowledged the city and its neighbors are pushing through tough times and tried to persuade the council to dip into reserves before raising taxes by 1 percent.

“We have reserves to ensure we get through tough times,” he said. “Citizens will ask why we have reserves if we’re raising taxes.”

Councilman Mark Bond, who participated via conference call, said raising taxes is a slippery slope.

Bond said it doesn’t matter to him if taxes increase by $5 or $50 per household; instead his concern is based on principle.

“We’ll be able to look every constituent in Mill Creek in the eye because we did everything possible to avoid this (raise taxes),” he said.

Staff maintained their recommendation to raise property taxes by 1 percent to dodge a $66,000 deficit in property tax revenue next year.

The recommendation followed number crunching that showed the rate of inflation for 2010 will fall below the 1 percent cap that Tim Eyman’s Initiative 747 placed on how high city officials could raise property taxes per year. The outlook shows the city would be faced with a shortfall if they do not dip into reserves or raise property taxes.

Councilwoman Mary Kay Voss said she has never liked raising taxes, but the city can not count money until it comes in.

Councilman Mike Todd, who steadily negotiated for status quo, said there is not an adequate justification to raise property taxes right now.

“Keeping the rate the same as last year is fair and equitable,” he said. “We’re doing right by citizens out there in tough times.”

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