BELLEVUE -- Faced with a growing backlog of critical, unfunded projects, the Bellevue City Council Monday unanimously voted to approve a plan that calls for the average homeowner to pay about $11 a year more in property taxes.
But even with the increase, which amounts to about 2 cents more per $1,000 of assessed value, the property tax rate charged Bellevue residents is still less than that paid by property owners in neighboring cities (see chart).
"This 2 percent increase in 2007 represents the first property tax rate increase in Bellevue since 1997," Bellevue Mayor Grant Degginger said. "In recent years, the City Council has been able to steadily lower the tax rate, but we've reached a point where we have a long list of critical and costly transportation, parks, neighborhood and other projects that residents and businesses are telling us they need and want."
The Council's action came as it adopted a new 2007-2008 Operating Budget and 2007-2013 Capital Investment Program (CIP) Plan. Together, the two budgets total about $966 million.
When the two budgets were submitted to the City Council in October, City Manager Steve Sarkozy said the budgets recognized the city's sound fiscal health and maintained the city's high municipal service levels. Sarkozy also said the budgets provided some new investment in public safety and city facilities, and continued the city's commitment to working smarter and more efficiently by utilizing new technologies.
However, Sarkozy emphasized the budgets did not address a fundamental challenge facing the city -- how to fund and sustain the city's rapidly emerging capital needs, now estimated at nearly half a billion dollars.
Another major issue confronting the city is how to fund the maintenance and operations associated with capital projects, he said.
The City Council's decision to raise the property tax rate by 2 percent next year is meant to respond to these challenges. The increase would generate cash flow to finance general obligation bonds for new projects.
"The decision by the City Council to adopt a 2 percent increase represents a recognition on their part that we face huge unfunded needs throughout the community," Sarkozy said. "The four public hearings held by the Council in advance of the vote also demonstrated that many of our residents and stakeholders share this view."
In 2006, residents were charged a property tax rate of $1.10 per $1,000 of assessed value. Because of the increased assessed values of properties, that amount would have dropped to $1.02 per $1,000 in 2007 if Council members had decided to collect the same amount of property taxes in 2007 as 2006.
However, the 2 percent increase means homeowners will pay $1.04 per $1,000. For the owner of the average Bellevue home assessed at $530,000, the tax increase will mean an additional $10.60 a year in taxes.
The CIP and operating budgets, with the exception of additions to Human Services funding, were adopted unchanged by the Council. Those budgets:
- expand emergency management services staffing to ensure prompt responses to emergencies;
- provide enhancements to parks and right of way maintenance;
- invest in parks partnership opportunities where city monies leverage private donations to secure community facilities and programs;
- provide capital investments for the downtown area.
More details can be found on the budget pages of the city’s website.
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