A majority of Eatonville voters are saying no to boosting property taxes to help improve the town’s finances.
With the first release Tuesday night of results from the general election, a levy placed on the general election ballot by the Town Council was about 20 percentage points short of the 60 percent yes vote required to pass. The no vote was at 60.3 percent, compared to the yes tally of 39.6 percent.
The levy would add $1 per $1,000 of assessed valuation to homes and property. The increase would inject about $161,000 in additional tax revenue into the town’s beleagured budget, according to town officials.
The levy would be in effect for one year. For any additional years, it would have to be renewed in futre elections.
The levy, which would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $100, was proposed by the town’s administration and authorized by the council as a way to help offset an expected drop next year in funding through property taxes. It also would help prevent a possible reduction of emergency medical aid services.
The assessed value of property in Eatonville for 2013, as projected by the Pierce County assessor-treasurer, is $499,249 – about $68,000 less in property tax revenue than the town is receiving for 2012.
Officials say the town, already struggling with a budget deficit that has led to layoffs and cost-cutting, would have to make more cuts if the levy doesn’t pass. Mayor Ray Harper has said the elimination of paramedics from the Fire Department would be a possibility.
Harper asked the council to specifically earmark the levy for public safety. But the council voted in July in favor of levy language calling for the measure to be used for general government expenses. The distinction was considered by some to be critical to the levy’s chances of passing. Before the election, Councilman Gordon Bowman said voters would be more likely to funding for public safety.
Town officials have taken other steps to increase revenue to meet Eatonville’s expenses. The council created a transportation improvement district that allows the town to add $20 to vehicle registration fees and spend the money on street maintenance. The council hasn’t put the fee in effect, however..
Two other tax boosts affecting the town have been approved by voters in the past 12 months. Last November, voters countywide approved an increase of the Pierce County sales tax by one-tenth of 1 percent to pay for upgrading 9-1-1 emergency dispatch and communication systems. And a two-year, $4.5 million Eatonville School District levy for educational uses and operations passed in April after it was defeated in February.
Only voters living in the town could vote on the town levy..