Goskagit

MOUNT VERNON — The Mount Vernon City Council on Wednesday approved a 1% increase in city property taxes, which will bring in about $85,000 more in revenue next year.

With the 4-1 council vote, city property taxes have now been increased three consecutive years and in four of the past 15 years.

Councilman Gary Molenaar voted against the increase.

The council was prepared Wednesday to vote on the city’s 2020 budget, but delayed the decision until Dec. 4 so two absent council members — Mark Hulst and Iris Carias — could participate.

Finance Director Doug Volesky said cities are permitted by state law to raise their property tax levies by 1% annually, which doesn’t keep up with inflation or increasing personnel and equipment costs.

As a result, the city is spending less on basic supplies than it has in years past, said Mayor Jill Boudreau.

“We’re literally buying less paper, pens and bullets,” she said.

Volesky said the 1% property tax increase increase would cost the owner of a home assessed at $307,000 — the average assessed value in the city — about $26 more a year.

According to Volesky’s latest draft budget, the city will need to take about $591,000 from its reserves in 2020 to balance its budget.

Ahead of the vote, the council debated the property tax increase.

Councilwoman Mary Hudson said taking the increase means the city can avoid drawing more from its reserves and can be more resilient in a recession.

Councilman Richard Brocksmith said the council is supporting valued city services by increasing taxes. For instance, he said the property tax increase is enough to fund the new police vehicle budgeted for 2020.

Both Molenaar and Councilwoman Melissa Beaton spoke against the increase, saying the city should carefully consider any tax increase.

However, Beaton ended up voting for the increase, saying she can justify higher taxes if it means improving services.

— Reporter Brandon Stone: bstone@skagitpublishing.com, 360-416-2112, Twitter: @Brandon_SVH

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