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Mill Creek voters to decide the fate of proposed public safety sales and use tax increase

On November 6th Mill Creek voters will decide whether or not to help reduce the budget deficit by approving a 0.1% sales and use tax increase.
Mill Creek public safety costs increasing

As with many American cities these days, Mill Creek has budget problems. Revenues are down and expenses are up which results in a projected deficit for the 2013-2014 budget.

On November 6th Mill Creek voters will decide whether or not to help reduce the budget deficit by approving a 0.1% sales and use tax increase, which can only be used to pay for public safety.

The ballot measure is entitled “Proposition 1, Sales and Use Tax Increase of 0.1% for Police and Fire Protection Purposes.”

If the sales and use tax increase is not approved by a majority of Mill Creek voters, the City will face additional service cuts and/or will have to use reserve funds to plug the budget hole.

The Mill Creek City Council voted unanimously to allow voters to decide whether or not to approve the public safety sales and use tax increase in their July 24, 2012 City Council meeting.

In a July 2012 issue of the Mill Creek View, former City Councilmember Terry Ryan said he supports the new public safety sales tax, “I believe this is the best alternative to avoid cutting police patrol positions. Keeping our patrol staffing at 19 full-time positions is in the City’s best interest.”

According to budget information supplied by Acting City Manager, Tom Gathmann, Mill Creek’s fire and police services are projected to cost approximately $1,860,000 more in the 2013-2014 biennium than they cost in 2011-2012. This increase in public safety service costs is the main cause of Mill Creek’s projected budget deficit.

A recently negotiated fire contract with Fire District 7 accounts for about $1,240,000 of the increase, and Mill Creek Police Department budget increases account for an additional $620,000 over the next two years.

The new 0.1% public safety sales and use tax increase will only offset approximately $260,000 of the increased public safety costs over the next two years according Mill Creek’s latest budget information.

According to the Snohomish County voters’ pamphlet, “This proposition is written so funds derived from the 0.10% sales tax increase can ONLY be used for public safety. When this measure is approved; residents AND citizens living outside the city benefiting from police services while shopping and dining in our beautiful city will pay for two police officers.”

Additional measures being taken by City staff and the Mill Creek City Council to reduce the projected 2013-2014 budget deficit are as follows:

  1. Cut expenses in the general fund by $518,000. This structural budget change includes staffing reductions, a longer time between vehicle and equipment replacements, and other operational cuts.
  2. Increase revenues by $490,500 by a combination of property tax increases, asset sales and/or by drawing down general fund reserves. A 3% property tax increase is a structural change that would result in a $300,000 deficit decrease. Paying for the budget deficit by drawing down general fund reserves or selling assets is only a temporary fix.
  3. Reallocate $640,000 from REET (Real Estate Excise Tax) to fund the Park Maintenance Budget. This is not a structural change, because the revenue is normally budgeted to fund capital projects and will have to be restored at least by 2017.

The Snohomish County Local Voters’ Pamphlet normally shows statements “For” and “Against” each proposition. Neither the City of Mill Creek nor Snohomish County could find anyone to write a statement against Proposition 1.

Here is the statement “For” Proposition 1, Sales and Use Tax Increase of 0.1% for Police and Fire Protection Purposes.

Statement by: Karen Brandon, Richard McCann

A primary responsibility of Government is to provide a safe and livable environment for its citizens. Cutting public safety is not what most citizens would choose. However; the city has already made cuts in other areas and further reductions will come from public safety, OUR Police.

Because of the states' revenue shortfall, the Washington State Legislature decided not to share Liquor Taxes for Criminal Justice funding with cities and counties. However; the state legislature authorized local governments to raise sales taxes for public safety to help cover shortfalls.

With the City's own revenue shortfall, the 2013-2014 biennial budget recommends cutting two police positions. The .10% in sales tax increase will cost 1 penny per $10 on a taxable purchase and raise approximately $160,000 per year, providing funding for two police officers.

With the increase in the sales tax, Mill Creek can continue to provide 24/7 police coverage. This proposition is written so funds derived from the 0.10% sales tax increase can ONLY be used for public safety. When this measure is approved; residents AND citizens living outside the city benefiting from police services while shopping and dining in our beautiful city will pay for two police officers.

In 1983 the impetus for incorporation by the residents was a desire to have a more equitable tax structure and improve police services. These concerns continue to be important to our citizens. We do not want less than 24/7 coverage.

Vote yes for Proposition #1 for the City of Mill Creek!

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