Mount Rainier officials: Property taxes might go up, services could be cut -- Gazette.Net



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Mount Rainier residents might see higher property tax rates and increased fees for fiscal 2014, due to a projected 10 percent reduction in property tax revenue for the city’s budget, officials said.

The city will receive an estimated $456,000 less in real property tax revenue due to a decreased assessment of almost $58 million of the total real properties in the city, City Treasurer Vijay Manjani said. The current total budget for the city for fiscal 2013 is almost $4.6 million. “That is a huge hit the city,” Manjani said. “I have no idea what we will do under these circumstances.”

The real property tax rate is 79 cents per every $100 of the assessed value of a property. For the city to maintain the same level of revenue as in fiscal 2013, council members would need to raise the real property tax rate by 13 cents, to the 92-cent level, Manjani said.

At a special meeting Tuesday for residents to address what they see as budget priorities for fiscal 2014, city officials said it is likely the real property tax rate will increase due to the drop in assessments. Program and service cuts were also likely, they said, as well as increases in fees that the city charges, although they agreed it is too early to say what fees might increase or what services might be cut.

“There is going to have to be some combination of balancing between revenue increases and potentially some cuts on the city side,” said Councilman Bill Updike (Ward 1). “Hopefully we don’t have to cut into essential services.”

Updike said residents need to understand that since assessments of property values are lower, even if council members raise property tax rates, residents could still end up paying less in taxes overall than they did in fiscal 2013.

Councilman Jimmy Tarlau (Ward 1) said it is too early to say what service fees or taxes might be increased, or what cuts might need to be made.

“I think that everything is open for discussion,” Tarlau said.

Last year, city officials laid off a code enforcement officer and did not fill a vacancy in the city’s police department to help balance the budget, Tarlau said. He said it is not likely that City Council members would fill these positions this year.

Mount Rainier Police Officer Paul Corridean, president of the city’s Fraternal Order of Police, which represents the city’s 16 police officers, said the union would like to see pay raises and some upgrades to vehicles but said he understood the difficulty of that considering the loss of revenue. He said he was opposed to the city cutting any police officers.

“What we want is a happy medium for everybody,” Corridean said. “We realize that times are tight.”

Mount Rainier resident Rick Ruggles said he wants the city to maintain as many services as it can and was not opposed to the property tax rate increasing as long as the total amount he pays in taxes does not increase.

“I can’t afford to pay more, but I would hate to see the quality of life in the city fall,” he said.

tsandoval@gazette.net