With their decision due next week on whether to adopt a flood-control tax, Pierce County Council members Thursday unanimously shot down a proposed 5 percent increase in the annual surface-water management fee.
“We’re still dealing with issues with our flood district,” said council member Tim Farrell, D-Tacoma. “I really don’t want to be looking at really touching surface-water management until we get a handle on that.”
Acting in their role as the flood district Board of Supervisors, County Council members are expected to decide Wednesday what tax – if any – to approve to fund projects for flood control.
The flood district’s advisory committee last week recommended a tax of 10 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. The Board of Supervisors will meet to decide on a tax at 9 a.m. Wednesday in the Council Chambers in the County-City Building, 930 Tacoma Ave. S., Room 1045.
In April, the County Council voted 5-2 to create a countywide taxing district to pay for flood control. It proposed limiting the tax to 10 cents per $1,000. The average homeowner would pay around $25 per year under that scenario.
The tax would provide about $7.6 million a year for flood projects – from rebuilding levees to buying up flood-prone properties. Under state law, the district could collect up to 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.
The surface-water management fee also helps pay for flood control. On average, about $2.5 million per year in surface-water management funds is spent on repairing river levees, said Brian Ziegler, public works and utilities director.
The 5-percent increase – about $900,000 per year – is necessary to pay for monitoring, testing and enforcement to deal with more stringent state and federal stormwater standards, Ziegler said.
Without an increase, there will be less money to spend on river levees, capital projects and maintaining stormwater retention ponds, Ziegler said.
Council member Rick Talbert, D-Tacoma, made the motion not to move forward with the increase in the 2013 budget, which is set for final approval Nov. 13. He said he wasn’t convinced the 5-percent hike was necessary and wants to maintain the current rates.
Talbert’s motion was adopted 7-0.
The annual fee for single-family residences is currently $108.39. The increase would have raised the rate to $113.81.
County Executive Pat McCarthy had included the 5-percent surface water management fee increase in her proposed budget.
Council members did endorse some other rate increases in McCarthy’s spending plan, including an average 11-percent increase in fees for Planning and Land Services. Most fees – including building permits – would increase from 3 percent to 15 percent. The higher charges would cover a greater portion of the county’s actual costs for providing services to customers, said Dennis Hanberg, director of Planning and Land Services.
Council members also supported some minor increases in parks and recreation service fees, including higher rates to rent the renovated ice arena at Sprinker Recreation Center in Spanaway.