By Richard Van Winkle, News of Mill Creek.
At their regular November 27, 2018, meeting, the Mill Creek City Council voted unanimously to levy a one percent Emergency Medical Services (EMS) property tax increase for 2019.
After an extensive discussion they also passed a resolution keeping the regular property tax constant by a narrow 4-3 vote, with Mayor Pam Pruitt, Councilmember Mark Bond, Councilmember Vince Cavaleri, and Councilmember Jared Mead voting for a 0% increase as they were concerned about the large Surface Water Utility rate increase that was passed earlier in the meeting.
Mayor Pro-Tem Brian Holtzclaw, Councilmember Mike Todd, and Councilmember John Steckler expressed their concerns about the city’s increasing budget deficit. They advocated a 1% regular property tax increase to offset rising public safety and personnel costs.
Over the past couple of months, Interim City Manager Bob Stowe has been telling councilmembers that the city has a structural budget deficit that is forecast to reduce the General Fund balance by $2,000,000 over the next six years without annual property tax increases.
Stowe told the city council that although the number of city employees continues to decrease, operational costs are forecast to grow faster than tax revenue over the next six years.
He went on to say that about 65% of the city’s operational costs pay for police, fire, and emergency medical services.
The city’s budget book states, “Wages are assumed at a 3% increase and benefits are assumed at a 5% increase annually, which provides for anticipated increases in collective bargaining agreements.”
Payments to Fire District 7 for fire and emergency medical services will increase by $515,000 or about 7% in the 2019-2020 biennium.
The city’s collective bargaining personnel agreements and the fire contract with Fire District 7 were negotiated by former City Manager Rebecca Polizzotto in 2016 and 2017.
As most homeowners know, only a portion of the property tax collected goes to the city in which the property is located.
According to the City of Mill Creek, only 18% of the property tax collected from each Mill Creek homeowner goes to the city. The rest of the tax is distributed as follows:
- Everett School District - 46%,
- Washington State - 24%,
- Snohomish County - 7%,
- Sno-Isle Library - 3%, and
- Central Puget Sound Regional Transit - 2%.
The Emergency Medical Services tax increase will generate $16,802 in additional revenue
Only 44% of Mill Creek’s total emergency medical service costs are covered with the EMS property tax.
According to a City of Mill Creek news release, “The total EMS levy contributes $1.7 million in revenue to the City to offset the $3.9 million annual cost of EMS services; the City’s General Fund covers the remaining 56 percent or $2.2 million.”