In the last month, Mill Creek residents and the Mill Creek City Council passed two separate measures to reduce the City’s projected 2013-2014 budget deficit by increasing tax revenue.
By passing Mill Creek Resolution 1 by 67% “approved” votes in November 6th’s General Election, Mill Creek residents increased the sales tax in the City by 0.1%. This should provide $260,000 in increased sales tax revenue for the City over the next two years. This tax revenue can only be spent on police and/or fire protection services.
At the November 27th City Council meeting the Mill Creek City Council voted 6-1 to increase the City’s 2013 property tax levy by 2.5%. As a result of this property tax increase, a $320,000 home’s property tax will increase approximately $20 a year. This action should provide a total of $132,000 in increased property tax revenue for the City in 2013.
The Mill Creek City Council sets Mill Creek’s portion of the property tax each year, so the 2014 property tax levy will be adjusted again next November.
These structural budget changes will help decrease the City’s structural budget deficit and have been discussed extensively by the City Council since May of this year.
Other deficit cutting measures included in the proposed 2013-2104 budget include:
- $500,000 in operating budget cuts including reductions in force, and
- $600,000 REET (Real Estate Excise Tax) transfer from capital projects to park maintenance.
The Mill Creek City Council voted 6-1 to increase the property tax levy. Those who supported the 2013 property tax increase did so because they felt that further budget cuts would result in a decrease in City services. The lone holdout has consistently voted against property tax increases:
- Councilmember Mark Harmsworth believes that there should be additional structural changes to be made to avoid tax increases and voted no. “I had a great discussion with the City Manager yesterday and there are some additional structural changes that we haven’t discussed yet within both our Planning and our Public Works Departments. Plus I think it’s also worth discussing our own, there is $50,000 sitting at this table in stipends, which we could use to avoid this tax increase. We will have this discussion next week, and it’s not worth discussing now, but I will be voting no on this until we have that discussion and we can consider these things.”
- Councilmember Donna Michelson said that this is a tough decision, but it needs to be made to keep the city the way it is, “I don’t believe as elected officials we would be asking for this if we didn’t need it. Because we haven’t asked in previous years. We are elected to make tough decisions and this is a tough decision… I can justify this so I am going to support this. I think it is necessary to keep our City the way it is and operating.”
- Mayor Pro Tem Kathy Nielsen said that there has been plenty of discussion about this issue over the past few months, “We have had plenty of time to get to this date and we knew that this date was coming… Our citizens voiced that they want this level of service. We need to do our due diligence and take care of the City and support our City and I support this based on the fact that this is our job.”
- Councilmember Lynn Sordel said that this is a necessary action. He believes the quality of life and levels of service in Mill Creek are important to preserve, “I think the quality of life and the level of service we provide is exemplary and I totally support this.”
- Councilmember Mark Bond said that he believes this action needs to be taken at this time. He voted against tax increases previously because he thought they were not necessary. His recent constituent straw poll tells him that this measure is supported by Mill Creek residents. He doesn’t want utility taxes and believes this property tax increase puts utility taxes off the table, “There probably is somewhere to cut, but we have cut pretty darned deep. If you are willing, we probably can keep these high service levels and not have to cut deeper… I am comfortable about this. This is going to keep us going. It keeps ugly discussions about utility taxes off the table… I think this is appropriate and is in the interests of the citizens that gave me a chance to sit here and I am supporting it.”
- Mayor Mike Todd appreciates Harmsworth’s position but believes that this is necessary at this time. He applauds staff for getting the budget where it is. He stresses that the community wants the service levels that they have, “You look at the type of costs we have here in the city… a lot of our costs have to do with people costs… we have to maintain the same level of service… people realize they are getting good value for their money.”