Pierce County panel OKs uniform flood tax, spending

Staff writerOctober 9, 2013 

A move to explore a variable tax rate for flood control in Pierce County was shot down Wednesday.

Flood board member Doug Richardson, R-Lakewood, proposed pursuing a change in state law allowing for flexible rates inside the county’s flood control zone district.

He cited past concern about areas such as Gig Harbor paying the same rate as areas that are more prone to flooding.

But other supervisors cited the need to maintain a uniform rate and defeated Richardson’s motion 5 to 1. The countywide tax of about 10 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation went into effect this year.

The district’s board of supervisors is made up of the seven Pierce County Council members. Council member Jim McCune, R-Graham, was absent Wednesday.

For the first time, the board parceled out money for flood-control projects. It voted 6-0 to approve a

$12.9 million budget that included $10 million in capital projects. The big-ticket item was $6.4 million for Orting’s Calistoga setback levee on the Puyallup River.

Orting officials broke into applause after supervisors adopted the budget.

“I believe that this benefits all of Pierce County,” Mayor Cheryl Temple told the board.

Orting already has about $9 million in outside funding for the setback levee.

Another $1 million in the budget will pay for a flood-wall project at Tacoma’s wastewater treatment plant, located at the entrance of the Puyallup River into Commencement Bay in the Tacoma Tideflats. It’s the first of six $1 million payments planned for the flood wall over the next six years.

Eight other setback levees and other projects will receive a total of $1.79 million from tax dollars collected this year and in 2014.

Richardson’s proposed amendment ignited an issue that has been volatile in the past for Lakewood and several other cities not prone to flooding.

Richardson said Wednesday he wanted staff members to study how state law could be changed to allow for variable rates.

He stressed the flood board still would have to approve any change in the tax rate.

Council Chairwoman Joyce McDonald, R-Puyallup, strongly opposed Richardson’s amendment.

“We’re one Pierce County with regards to jobs and economic development,” McDonald said. “We’re not divided.”

Council member Stan Flemming, R-Gig Harbor, also opposed Richardson’s move, even though the area Flemming represents could benefit from a variable, lower tax.

“While we would become the winners, Orting would be the loser,” Flemming said.

Steve Maynard: 253-597-8647
steve.maynard@thenewstribune.com

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