Raising Clark County Property Taxes at this Time is a Very Bad Idea

by lewwaters

Here we go again. With a 13% unemployment rate in Clark County, our illustrious county commissioners, allegedly with a Republican majority, are pondering whether or not to raise property taxes on economically repressed Clark County.

A Sunday Columbian article informs us, after seemingly scolding taxpayers for voting in limitations on property tax increases in the past, “Property taxes are the single largest source of revenue for local government.

I believe most homeowners realize that already.

They also inform us, “In a 2009 national survey of 2,002 adults by Harris Interactive for the Tax Foundation, on the subject of the fairness of state and local taxes, property taxes ranked behind the gas tax as ‘the least fair’.

Of course, the ‘lovely’ Stephanie Rice first tells us, “If Clark County commissioners, after four public hearings on the 2011-12 budget, decide this week they need to raise the county’s property tax levy 1 percent, take heart and seek perspective,” in a futile attempt to make us “feel better” about yet another tax increase placed upon us by also telling us, “Property taxes in Clark County fall in the middle among 792 U.S. counties ranked by the Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan research group in Washington, D.C.

NOTE: A Monday, Dec. 6, 2010 REWRITE of the above quoted article eliminated much of the above quote.

What I don’t see mentioned in the perky Ms. Rice’s article is, when it comes to our 13% unemployment rate, we are well above that middle in similar rankings nationwide.

Of course, this chart deceptively places us at number 261 out of 372 by lumping us in as Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA Metropolitan Statistical Area with a 9.8% unemployment rate. Sorry, the latest unemployment numbers places us at 13% in Clark County which would place us in about the 343 range on the chart.

Also of note, Portland and Hillsboro would not pay a dime of our property tax over here either.

Placing the potential increase in a more truthful perspective shows that such an increase will hurt much more than help the fledgling economy in Clark County, especially when we are facing potential massive tolls and tax increases to pay for the Columbia River Crossing project so few people in Clark County want.

We also cannot forget that the county is facing a budget deficit and has scheduled Public Budget Hearings for Clark County, Tuesday Dec. 7, 10 AM and 6 PM and Wednesday Dec. 8, 10 AM at the Clark County Building at 1300 Franklin, 6th Floor, Vancouver, WA.

Knowing many will be unable to attend, the three commissioners, Marc Boldt, Steve Stuart and Tom Mielke may be contacted by email at boardcom@clark.wa.gov. They must hear from us, either in person testifying at one of the meetings or by email.

One major point I don’t see adequately addressed in the Columbian article is that the reason property tax revenues have fallen drastically is that property values in Clark County have fallen drastically, some 13.7% compared to only 8% for the rest of the state. We also saw Home sales in county tumble 48 percent in July, the Columbian informed us in August.

Another article penned by Ms. Rice just in September told us, “ Declines in assessed values don’t translate into comparable decline in property taxes, as levy rates are recalculated once all the taxing districts put in for their share. In Clark County, the levy rate rose from $10.06 per $1,000 assessed value to $11.60.

A February 14, 2009 Columbian article by Cami Joner informed us, “ The more than 150,000 property tax statements being mailed Tuesday by the Clark County Treasurer’s Office may contain an unpleasant surprise: Despite a 2.5- to 4-percent drop in average home assessments, the tax bill for many is still growing.”

“Residential property owners will pay an average of $2,832 in property taxes this year, $488 more than in 2008, based on an average appraised value of $292,869 for single-family homes in Clark County.

A December 11, 2009 Columbian article told us that the County Commission “cut services” and by a 2 to 1 margin, elected to increase property taxes by the maximum allowable 1%, the lone holdout being Tom Mielke.

As we know, the economy hasn’t really improved and in spite of colorful attempts to convince us otherwise, it has probably gotten worse.

It has gotten imperative that our elected official begin demanding concessions, true concession, and not minimal feel-good agreements, from public unions. One huge area of cost continues to be health insurance for public workers and officials, which we taxpayers pay the bulk of.

I am told that “Clark County employees have never contributed anything to insurance premiums for Medical, Dental, Vision, Long term disability, and Life insurance for themselves or dependents.” It was just days ago the Columbian informed us, “State employee unions have reached a tentative agreement with state negotiators to ratchet up members’ contributions to their health care benefits from 12 percent to 15 percent beginning next July 1,

Still a paltry contribution from well paid union workers considering what private sector employees pay for health insurance.

By comparison, I worked for 20 years for the same employer in Clark County and earned roughly $42K the highest year I was there. When I was pushed off into early retirement in June 2009, my contribution for health insurance, medical, vision and dental for just my wife and I amounted to $481.19 a month. Or, right at 70% of the cost of the premium.

I know that private sector union jobs also don’t pay that much of their premium, but stop for a minute and think. The cost of that is passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices. Likewise, the entire cost of public union employee benefits are passed along to taxpayers in the form of ever increasing taxes, taxes that are breaking our backs.

The county could save millions of dollars by having county union employees pay more for their insurance just as the private sector does. If they don’t wish to make such needed concessions, they must be decertified.

We have passed the saturation point for taxpayers in our state. We cannot continue just ponying up and paying more and more for others.

Our county commissioners must see and realize that continuing to raise taxes to pay for such ‘Cadillac Services’ is no longer sustainable.

We’re broke!

6 Comments to “Raising Clark County Property Taxes at this Time is a Very Bad Idea”

  1. Rice and her article are living proof that figures don’t lie, but liars figure.

    And if my brother in law, Marc Boldt, is a Republican… then I’m ashamed to call myself one.


  2. You’ll note, I said “allegedly” a Republican majority


  3. The columbian article you had referenced Lew has been taken down & another one has been put up that does not match even close to what in your article.

    The columbian link links to a 404 – Page Not Found error


  4. Which article, Jeremy? One was from the archives and no longer available. I’ll check the rest, but what I quoted is directly from what was online at the time.


  5. Even after what just happened at the polls, and continues to happen at the grass roots level, some of these folks in local government STILL don’t get the message. What the heck is it going to take??


  6. I don’t know Tom. Sometimes I think maybe mass protests or marches, but they just continue to ignore whatever we say or do.

    We can’t seem to find candidates that portray a better ability and lose elections.

    They just don’t get how pissed off people are yet.


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