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Centralia Council Reverses Course: Increases Property Tax Levy 1%
Author: peterabbarno
November 27, 2019

In what was described by Mayor Lee Coumbs as a “Miniscule” Tax Increase, the City County gathered 4 votes to increase the Property Tax Levy by 1%; the 3rd time in 4 years the City Council has increased the property tax levy by 1%.

I am disappointed by the vote, but not surprised. Councilors Coumbs, Barnes, Staebler, and Vogt, have increased taxes in the past, including last year. Actually, this tax has been raised 1% the three out of the past four years.

Peter Abbarno listening to a presentation by Centralia City Manager Rob Hill in early 2019.

This increase was so unnecessary, City Staff made the recommendation that the council approve a 0% increase in the property tax levy. That passed 4-3 two weeks ago. The increase will be deposited in the general fund, without any formal designation.

Last year when the council (4-3) increased taxes, I was able to designate the money to go right back to community organizations. Reliable Enterprises was the recipient for housing programs. I voted against the tax increase every year on the council, because it is unnecessary. The Tax can be banked for later use (not lost) when it might actually be necessary for a future council.

The City of Centralia approved the 2019-2020 budget at $127,545,319 budget. The budget was balanced and increased our projected reserves. In April 2019, the City Council voted 7-0 to approve an amendment to the budget because of increased revenue. The new amended budget was approved at $133,623,427. In July 2019, the City Council voted 7-0 to approve a second amendment to the budget. The new amended budget was approved at $134,722,760. That was an increase of $1,099,333.

However big or small, tax increases at the city and county and state and federal level add up. To say it is “miniscule” is a pretty narrow view of how economics works; especially for working families and those on fixed incomes. It also neglects to consider that voting a “miniscule” tax increase year after year after year makes it less “miniscule” each year.

In 2019, the City of Centralia voters overwhelmingly voted in favor of Initiative 976 limiting the cost of car tabs, and overwhelmingly rejected advisory votes on tax increases from the Legislatures. This vote to INCREASE taxes is out of step with voters in Centralia and Lewis County.

This vote sends a bad message and puts in jeopardy future levy and bond votes. When someone looks at their property tax bill, when someone reads about the City raising property tax, they are going to be less likely to vote in favor of a ballot measure that might actually have merit and necessary.