Public Service Center

The Clark County Public Service Center in downtown Vancouver

The Clark County Council approved the county’s $518 million 2019 budget Dec. 4, featuring a balanced general fund with a property tax levy increase and an rise in the levy for the county’s road improvements fund.

The councilors voted 4-1 to approve the 2019 budget with Eileen Quiring being the sole “no” vote. She voted against the budget due to its inclusion of county manager Shawn Henessee’s recommendation to raise the county’s property tax levy by 1 percent, the maximum allowable without a vote of the people under state law.

That 1 percent property tax increase would result in close to $633,000 in additional revenue, while costing about $3.41 more annually for a home with the median price of $349,000. Henessee said the county had foregone the 1 percent increase in five of the last seven years which resulted in the county taking in $3.2 million less annually.

The $170 million 2019 general fund budget would keep that fund’s end-of-the-year balance about the same at $24.3 million. 

Henessee said his number-one focus in the budget was maintaining the county’s fund balance while still fulfilling mandated service needs. Growth proved to be a complicating factor for the county, as he explained that alongside increases in taxes paid from new residents, demands for county services also increased. 

Outside of the 1 percent increase, Henessee said new construction continues to be another major funding source. County staff noted that the increase in assessed value was projected to be 40 percent higher than last year due to new construction, resulting in about $1.6 million more collected for the general fund on top of the percentage levy hike.

Sales tax revenues continued to remain strong in the county, though Henessee said he was hesitant to rely on trends for budget forecasting. If the county were too optimistic with its forecasts in the budget process it could end up hurting them more should the actual revenues be less. 

Even with a more conservative estimate Henessee predicted $1.7 million more in sales tax revenue in 2019, a 5.9 percent increase from 2018. Outside of more revenues, he mentioned $400,000 in savings due to budget cuts to balance the budget.

Quiring made a motion to forego the 1 percent increase, drawing from general fund balance to make up the difference. She said during her campaign for county council chair — which she won last month — the chief complaint was tax burden.

“Because of the very emotional conversations that I’ve had with many people, I just cannot vote to increase our taxes, even $3 more,” Quiring said.  

Councilors also voted for a 1 percent increase in the county’s road fund levy. Previously, the county has only taken the increase once in the past nine years. 

The increase would result in close to $400,000 additional funding, costing the taxpayer  $4.61 cents per year at median income home price.

The vote was again 4-1 with Quiring dissenting. She said she would consider increases to the fund when promised cuts in property tax at the state level go into effect next year, blunting some of the sharp increase felt this year due to the McCleary school funding “fix.”

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(1) comment

Icare4Clarkcounty

The tax proposals almost always seem so small. What many of us tend to overlook, is this isn't the only increase. To be properly presented, chow ALL of the TAX INCREASES over the years, so as voters, we can intellectually make a wise voting choice...........and a big thank you to Eileen Quiring.

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