Issaquah City Hall. Photo courtesy of Joe Mabel

Issaquah City Hall. Photo courtesy of Joe Mabel

Issaquah Council talks property tax and holds public hearing on budget

Issaquah council approved a 1 percent property tax increase and held a public hearing on the budget.

The Issaquah City Council approved a new property tax levy rate for the 2019 fiscal year at its Nov. 5 meeting. The council also held a public hearing on the proposed preliminary budget for 2019.

In a unanimous vote, the council approved the 2019 property tax levy rate taking the legal maximum 1-percent increase over the 2018 rate. The levy will raise about $9.1 million. The total includes $88,162 from the 1-percent increase, and $195,843 for new construction. The levy rate is .79338 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. Under the levy rate increase, taxpayers with a property valued at $500,000 would pay about $33 more per month.

Ruth Riddle, financial operations manager, said the increase is smaller than the total allowable levy increase for 2018 as it is just the one percent increase and does not use any of the banked capacity the city has built up.

Because the city of Issaquah chose not to take the yearly allowable 1-percent increase for several years beginning in 2008, that capacity has been banked for later use by the city, Riddle said. However, the city has not used any of their banked property tax increase capacity since that time and will not use it for 2019.

When Councilmember Tola Marts asked about the rate compared to other cities, Riddle said Issaquah’s rate is lower than other area cities including Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond and Sammamish.

Councilmember Paul Winterstein spoke in support of the rate saying it is relatively low compared to the amount of growth in assessed value over the years, partially due to the city’s primary funding source being sales tax which makes up about 30 percent of general fund revenue. In comparison, the property tax only makes up 18 percent of the revenue.

“That’s one of the reasons we have a lower rate, and I think that’s a good sign that we continue to be good stewards in managing both the demand for funds and our revenue sources over this period of time,” he said.

The council also held a public hearing on the proposed preliminary 2019 budget. The budget includes a small increase in city employment, invests in core services and customer service, and supports the completion of the 2019 strategic plan.

Two members of the public spoke during the hearing. Providence Point president Bruce Eder and Providence Point resident Daphne Ghan both asked the council to consider investing in a traffic signal on Southeast 43rd Way to control the speed of traffic and improve safety for those trying to turn left into the 55 and older adult living community.

Because traffic has become so fast along the road, they said, people often feel unsafe trying to find a chance to make the left turn into the community.

The council will have a second and final public hearing on the budget at their meeting on Dec 3. It is expected the council will vote on the final budget at that meeting. The levy rate will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2019.

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