Buckley budget available to public

The city council is also talking about a new EMS levy, with a public hearing on Nov. 12.

Interested Buckley residents have a week to review a proposed city budget for 2020 and perhaps one opportunity to make their feelings known to the City Council.

The word from Buckley City Hall is that a preliminary budget for the coming year will be posted to the city website today, Aug. 6. Also, a printed document should be available for viewing at City Hall.

A public hearing on the budget is slated for the council’s Nov. 12 meeting and the council has tentative plans to adopt the 2020 spending plan on Nov. 26. City Administrator Dave Schmidt said plans could change if there are contentious issues to be addressed. It’s possible a second public hearing could be scheduled, he said, and conducted on the 26th prior to a council vote.

Among the items Buckley property owners may look for in the city budget is exactly how much they should expect to pay in property tax.

The first item in a tax calculation is a state mandate that the property tax rate cannot bump more than a 1 percent increase from the year prior. Schmidt said Buckley is planning to impose the 1 percent increase. A second factor involves new construction, which can be added to the overall assessed value of the community – and this is a major factor in Buckley, where housing is booming.

Schmidt said the figure received from Pierce County is “pretty amazing” – more than $34 million in new construction during 2019. Commercial development is still slight and school construction played a role, but most of the new-construction is the result of homes springing up on both side of town.

All those new homes may result in traffic issues, but they help push down the tax rate levied against property owners. Simply, when Buckley’s overall value increases, everyone’s share of the tax burden is decreased.

Tax rates are figured, and assessed, in terms of dollars per $1,000 of assessed property value. Schmidt said the city collected a rate of almost $1.69 this year, meaning a tax bill of about $507 for the owner of property (land and home) valued at $300,000. For the coming year, the city is looking at dropping the rate to about $1.52, Schmidt said. That would mean a total of $456 to the city in 2020.

Countering that math is the fact that property values are increasing. While the rate might decrease, a tax bill could climb based on higher values.

A second Buckley budget consideration – also set for a public hearing Nov. 12 – is a citywide levy that helps pay for emergency medical services. Again, due to new construction and an increase in the city’s overall assessed value, the rate is set to drop in 2020. Schmidt said the 2019 rate of 42.5 cents could shrink to approximately 38.3 cents, saving property owners about $12 dollars annually.

But, again, any actual decrease could be offset by an increase in property value.

When Buckley property owners pay their annual tax bill, whether it’s in a lump sum or paid monthly as part of a mortgage payment, there are 10 governmental entities collecting a slice of the overall tax pie. Aside from the city, taxes are collected for the state’s public school system and the White River School District; tax money also is collected for things like the county library system, flood prevention, land conservation, port operations and noxious weed control.

CITY LOOKING TO SHED SOME PROPERTY

Also during their meeting of Nov. 12, members of the City Council will address the potential vacation of multiple parcels of land. Everything stems from the project that involved – and realigned – Ryan Road, state Route 165 and River Avenue.

The vacation process is simply the city’s way of determining that public land is no longer needed. The parcels in question range from 8,202 square feet (almost one-fifth of an acre) to just a single square foot of land.

There’s a formal process for disposing of vacated land, Schmidt said. The initial step is to contact adjacent property owners and they have the first opportunity to purchase the land. After that, nearby property owners are contacted and, if that doesn’t yield a buyer, the land can be advertised. The various parcels have already been appraised, Schmidt said.

The vacation of public property will be the subject of a public hearing on the 12th, prior to a council vote.

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