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City of Mercer Island

Proposition No. 1
Levy Lid Lift for Public Safety, Youth, Family & Senior Services, and Parks & Recreation

The Mercer Island City Council adopted Ordinance No. 18-07 proposing to increase the City’s regular property tax levy to fund public safety, youth, family, and senior services, and parks and recreation services.

This proposition would sustain current levels of police/emergency, mental health counseling, safety net, park/right-of-way maintenance, and recreation services by increasing the City’s regular property tax levy by $0.238/$1,000 to a maximum rate of $1.241/$1,000 of assessed valuation for collection in 2019; set the limit factor for 2020-2024 at 103% (each year’s total regular property levy is the base for computing the succeeding year’s levy); and use the 2024 levy amount to calculate subsequent levy limits.

Should this proposition be approved?

Yes

No


The City projects a financial deficit of approximately $1.86 million in 2019 in the General Fund and Youth and Family Services Fund, increasing on average $1.12 million annually to approximately $7.42 million in 2024. Since 2001, the City has been limited by State law to raising property tax revenues by 1% per year. Property tax revenues account for 41% of the City’s budget. A third-party consultant reviewed and verified the City’s 6-year projections and concluded that new revenues or service level reductions would be required to balance future budgets. For six months, a 23-member citizen advisory group studied this issue, and the majority (74%) recommended that the City ask voters to raise the property tax levy limit to continue, not reduce, services.

If approved, Proposition 1 would continue current levels of service for police patrol; investigations; School Resource Officer; crime prevention; emergency management; code compliance; school-based and community-based mental health counselors; safety net services for youth, families, and seniors; maintenance of parks, trails, playgrounds, ballfields, rights-of-way, and medians; community center operations; and recreation programs for seniors and youth. Proposition 1 sets the City’s levy rate not to exceed $1.241 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for collection in 2019. The maximum annual levy increase for each of the five succeeding years would be 3%, and the 2024 levy would be used to calculate subsequent levy limits. A homeowner with a median home value of $1.2 million would pay approximately $24 per month more in 2019 to continue services at current levels.

Islanders value our safe community, abundant parks and high quality of life. However, our city faces a financial crisis that will reduce funding for police/fire services, school resource officers, school counseling, senior services, and parks programs and maintenance.

Since 2007 state law limits the annual growth of MI City revenue from your property taxes to 1%, unless voters choose otherwise. For more than 10 years, the City has lived with this limit by tightly managing expenses, driving efficiencies, and dipping into reserves.

A comprehensive study by a diverse citizens’ advisory group, an independent financial expert, and the City Council found that with regional inflation above 3% annually, and the need to balance the budget and maintain prudent reserves, the City can no longer avoid service cuts through efficiencies alone.

Proposition 1 preserves essential services and commits the City to further accountability and cost-reduction programs. It will cost the average home owner $1.02 a day ($374 a year) over the next six years.

Keep our island strong and vote yes for police, fire, kids and parks. For more information, see www.IslandersYes.com.

We love and value the quality of life on Mercer Island and want to preserve it. To do this, our city government needs an equal balance of efficient spending, accountability, and taxes.  But we’ve had an imbalance since 2011.  Our tax contributions continue to increase: “Other” city revenues and fees (60% of the budget) increased 7% annually, and property tax and new construction revenues (40% of the budget) increased 2.4% annually.  Spending is growing with no cost control: city spending has grown 38%, staffing has increased 12% (22 new employees) with only 4% population growth,  and the city hasn’t applied formal spending containment since 2005.

Should we support raising our city property taxes 45% over 6 years when our city council hasn’t even looked at cost efficiencies? Or should we get spending under control first?

Our most valued services are protected:  police and fire are not at risk, city council has voiced protection for school counselor funding, and we already have a park maintenance levy in place. Voting “yes” to lift the levy lid increases taxes 45% and creates zero incentive for a balanced budget.  We need accountability for our tax dollars.

Balance the budget without new taxes.  Vote no.

Just saying “no" is not a strategy for managing a city. The cost of services increases over time. After extensive study, no one — including the opposition – has identified cost savings without serious cuts. Our fire, police, counselors, senior services and parks are Only protected with a Yes vote. $1.02 per day will save these valuable services. Prop 1 ensures accountability, financial sustainability, and preserves the quality of life we value. Vote Yes for Islanders.

Submitted by: Alan Merkle, Leslie Meagley, John Stewart, www.IslandersYes.com

The budget can be balanced without additional taxes and without impacting services.  Mercer Island doesn’t have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem.  With over $40M in reserves, our city budget is strong, but the Council hasn’t prioritized efficiency with your money.

Proposition 1 doesn’t address the core issue of spending, it asks Islanders to contribute more taxes so the city doesn’t have to live within a budget. A levy is not needed.

Submitted by: Lisa Anderl, Heather Cartwright, Mike Cero, www.miforss.com

 

 

 

 

Simple majority (RCW 84.55.050)

Chip Corder, Finance Director, 206-275-7780, chip.corder@mercergov.org

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