Community advisory group supports placing levy on ballot

The recommendation was approved by a majority on April 2.

In its final meeting on April 2, 74 percent of the city’s Financial Challenges Community Advisory Group (CAG) voted in favor of recommending a property tax levy on the November 2018 ballot as a remedy to the city’s revenue shortage, along with raising the business and occupation (B&O) tax and retaining a utility tax increase slated to sunset later this year.

The recommendation will be presented to the city council in May, along with results of a community satisfaction survey. After hearing the city manager’s recommendation, the council will kick off its deliberations at a June 5 Public Hearing.

The combined new revenues suggested by the CAG would allow the city to maintain current levels of service for the next six years. It was a budget balancing solution devised by the members to address city deficits that is otherwise projected to grow from $1.8 million in 2019 to almost $7 million by 2024.

“We’re so appreciative for all the time and work the CAG members put into looking closely at our city budget. They asked tough questions and always kept in mind the best interests of Island residents,” said city manager Julie Underwood in a press release.

She noted that the CAG’s inclusion of higher B&O and utility taxes was designed to reduce the burden on Mercer Island homeowners, who already face higher property taxes this year due to elevated state education spending. The CAG members met for approximately 15 hours during five meetings with city staff over the past six months; click here to view a list of all members.

Mercer Island faces a revenue shortage stemming from the one percent cap on property tax increases put in place after Tim Eyman’s Initiative 747 in 2001.

“As lean as our city government is, we can only maintain service levels if we have revenues that keep up with inflation,” Underwood said.

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