Island County Commissioners wish to impose a sales tax increase, without public vote, to support the new “Affordable Housing and Related Services Fund.” Island County was just granted $16.5 million in ARPA money less than a year ago and said they allocated $9.5 million to this specific issue. They now claim it has been proven to be inadequate to meet the need. Is the money gone? How was the money spent?
In promoting her Town Hall discussion on Jan. 6, Commissioner Janet St. Clair writes: “Similar to the Mental Health Sales Tax of 1/10 of 1% used to provide critical mental health resources to Island County residents, the housing tax is also a 1/10 of 1% sales tax dedicated only to housing. For example, our current tax is 8.7% and if this proposal is enacted, sales tax would raise to 8.8%. The Board of Island County Commissioners was asked to consider taking the independent action of raising this sales tax with presentation in 2020.”
However, the proposed code change does not specify that these funds are dedicated only to housing but to: Section 3.02E.050 Use of Funds. Moneys collected from the tax shall be used solely for those housing, mental and behavioral health facilities, and related services authorized by RCW 82.14.530, as the same now exists or as hereafter amended.
If the $9.5 million that was allocated to this cause was inadequate in a matter of months, how do we know that a new fund from sales tax revenue will managed any better? We citizens don’t get a vote on this, but we can express our concern at the Town Hall meeting and at a public hearing on Jan. 18.