Battle Ground residents won’t receive the same respite from property tax increases they saw last year as the city council voted to take a 1.69 percent levy rate increase last week.
The council voted 4-3 to approve the increase, which is both the usual 1 percent maximum a city can take each year as well as “banked capacity” that the city acquired when they declined to raise the rate last year. Municipalities can decide to bank their capacity to increase the rate should they decide not to take that 1 percent in a given year.
According to information provided to council, the increase will result in close to $54,000 more collected in property tax by the city. Depending on how much a property’s assessed value (AV) increased from 2019 to 2020, the levy hike could result in taxes owed to the city dropping by $6.20 with no AV increase, or paying $44.02 more given a 12 percent AV increase for a home valued at $310,000 this year.
Even with the tax increase, the levy rate would drop due to increases in assessed value in the city, dropping from 2019’s $1.37 per $1,000 of assessed value to $1.35 per $1,000. Without the increase that drop would be to $1.32 per $1,000, according to documents provided to the council.
Last year, councilors voted 6-1 to decline a 1 percent increase, instead banking the capacity. At the time, councilors were looking to give residents a reprieve, especially after a tax hike related to school funding at the state level saw significant increases on tax bills in 2018.
Councilor Adrian Cortes said that when the council voted against the levy increase last year he wanted to avoid the situation council was currently in with taking banked capacity. He was the lone “no” vote on council’s 2018 motion.
Cortes said that although he could sympathize with potential funding issues facing the city, especially with the potential for revenue drops a result of the approval of Initiative 976, he would maintain his opposition against using banked capacity as he did in 2018. This year he had fellow councilors join him in dissent, as councilor Brian Munson and Mayor Mike Dalesandro voted against the increase.
Dalesandro said he wasn’t in favor of banking more capacity should the council vote down an increase. He said that given uncertainties with the city in public safety he wanted to wait and see what happened before taking on an increase. Currently, the city is considering annexation into Clark County Fire District 3, which would increase city residents’ tax bills if approved.
“I think that’s the responsible thing to do at this point,” Dalesandro said.
Battle Ground Deputy Mayor Shane Bowman said that when inflation is taken into account even the maximum increase outside of banked capacity would be outpaced over time.
“How do we continue to provide the services that we need to provide but not raise taxes?” Bowman said.
He took issue with the city’s decision last year to bank capacity, explaining he was more in favor of gradual increases over time than more pronounced ones using the capacity entailed.