The Pierce County Council on Tuesday approved new variable taxpayer rates for the Pierce Conservation District starting in January.
Property owners are expected to receive an annual 20- to 25-cent credit per tax parcel next year offsetting the new rates, said Ryan Mello, the district’s executive director. The credit resulted from the settlement of a class-action lawsuit against the conservation districts in Pierce and King counties.
The council voted 6-1 Tuesday to approve the new rate system. Councilmember Dan Roach, R-Bonney Lake, voted no.
The new system was made possible by a change in state law. Annual rates will vary by the type of parcel: $3.95 for open space, $4.14 for agricultural, $4.98 for commercial, and $5 for residential. The new rates are based on the cost of programs and benefits to categories of landowners.
Under the old system, owners of all types of parcels have been charged the same $5 annual assessment since 2004. The new rates and credits will continue through 2017.
Several landowners and building groups sued King and Pierce counties and the two conservation districts in 2010, alleging the districts violated state law by charging a flat-rate, per parcel assessment but not a per-acre fee, Mello said.
Next year’s rate change affects the district’s customer base, made up of unincorporated Pierce County and 11 participating cities or towns: Buckley, DuPont, Fircrest, Gig Harbor, Lakewood, Milton, Puyallup, Steilacoom, Sumner, Tacoma and University Place.
The district’s work includes agricultural assistance, soil conservation and improving water quality and salmon habitats. Its budget – separate from the county’s – is about $2.1 million for 2013.Steve Maynard: 253-597-8647