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Proposed property tax sliced

Enumclaw City Council members chopped away at a proposed increase in the property tax rate, finally settling on a figure less than proposed by Mayor Liz Reynolds but greater than some wanted.

In her preliminary budget for 2011, Reynolds had suggested a formula that would have bumped property taxes in Enumclaw by 4.3 percent with the coming of the new year. State law limits increases to 1 percent annually, but a variety of other factors can be implemented that push the rate higher. The mayor’s suggestion was to also include taxes on new construction, to take into account corrections from the prior year’s collections and to implement all the city’s unused, or “banked,” levy capacity.

If a city takes less of an increase than legally allowed, it can “bank” that taxing authority and use it during another year.

Council members, during their Nov. 22 meeting, were charged with settling on a tax rate for 2011. It quickly became apparent some were not thrilled with the 4.3 percent increase that had been suggested.

The first order of business was a motion, offered by Jeff Beckwith, to remove the banked capacity element from the tax equation. That passed unanimously and dropped approximately $48,600 from the amount to be collected next year from city property owners.

The greater debate was over the allowable 1 percent increase, which would allow the city to collect approximately $21,500 more than during 2010.

Councilman Sean Krebs defended implementation of the legal increase. Voters gave their blessing to a slight annual tax hike, he said, “and we have a responsibility to try to keep up with inflation.”

Councilman Mike Ennis argued against taking the 1 percent increase, noting that voters adamantly opposed all tax increases during November’s general election.

The council split 4-3 on the property tax decision. Passing an ordinance that allows the city to collect everything but the banked capacity were Rich Elfers, Sean Krebs, Jim Hogan and Kevin Mahelona. Opposing the plan were Ennis, Beckwith and Glen Jensen.

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