There are several tax systems that states use to fund state and local government programs, with income taxes being one of the most progressive and property taxes being one of the most regressive. Unfortunately, Washington state has one of the most regressive tax policies in America.
While I am not advocating a change in our tax system, I am writing to draw attention to how much more lower-income people will be affected by the Friends of the Pool proposal to raise property taxes to fund the operation and construction of their two pools (and hot tub area). A levy of up to a whopping 75 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value could be assessed every year, and possibly more if Friends of the Pool needs a separate levy to pay for construction costs not covered by both grant money and construction debt issued by the Metropolitan Park District. Lower-income people forced to hand over a higher percentage of their income in taxes to fund the pools will likely end up getting less (if anything) in return, as some likely won’t be able to afford a pool membership.
The Methow has changed greatly over the past 50 years, as more and more people with money have moved here. The high prices they pay for homes has raised property taxes on many who have lived here for many years, those who are house rich but whose income is shrinking due to the huge tax increases. The very expensive pool proposal seems to me to be another assault on the less wealthy.
In my opinion, if a pool will need public financing, a much less-expensive pool option with a type of recreation district that provides taxpayer accountability would serve the needs of the valley far better than what is being proposed. About seven years ago, Tonasket funded an outdoor pool at a cost of about 13 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. Replacing the Wagner Memorial Pool with another pool on the same location seems like a logical alternative that needs consideration.
Join the planning commission
The Twisp Planning Commissioners work on issues that currently affect the town operation and community. Some of the issues are regulatory, such as aligning the town’s codes with changes in state and federal regulations. Many other matters arise as the town evaluates new development projects and/or requests for code variances. The commissioners study the issues involved, hold public hearings and make recommendations to the town council for its decision or action. The recent evaluation of the Orchard Hills development was a good example, the planning commission held a public hearing which extended over three monthly meetings and dozens of community members provided comments. These comments shaped the final determinations and recommendations of the commission.
Aside from these examples of routine business, the planning commission is also continually evaluating parts of the town municipal code. This code (which is easily accessible on the town’s new website) describes how the town operates as events and challenges present themselves. These types of code evaluations require careful thought and discussion to bring to the surface any unintended consequences in a proposed change. It is an interesting, stimulating and important activity.
The commission is supported by a capable town staff and zoning consultant who can evaluate Twisp’s issues in the context of other municipalities in the county. Additionally, two town council members join the meetings to provide advice and guidance.
Twisp is facing many challenges and long-term opportunities; not the least of which is housing. Recently the town council asked the planning commission to evaluate the nightly rental situation. The Planning Commission is leading these discussions and its recommendations will have lasting impacts.
Typically, the commission meets monthly (Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.) but has been meeting twice monthly recently to discuss the current matters under review. Presently, there are three commissioners, and two vacant positions, one for a person who is a resident and one who is “at large” (can be a resident or non-resident of Twisp). Come join us, we are making history!
Chairperson, Twisp Planning Commission
Yes for annexation
Annexing Twisp into Okanogan County Fire District 6 benefits everyone.
First and foremost, annexation ensures ongoing high-quality fire protection for everyone. For Twisp residents, annexation means they will never be without coverage. For everyone else, it means Twisp will never be a gap in coverage.
Annexation also ensures fairness. Every property owner receiving Fire District 6 services will pay the same rate, and every voter in the district’s service area will be able to vote in district elections and run for board of commissioner positions.
Bringing Twisp into the fire district will save both the town and the district the time and legal expenses involved with frequent contract negotiations.
Fire District 6 will take possession of the Twisp station, which will provide it with a permanent base in an excellent location, and Twisp will receive the fair market value for a property it no longer needs.
The district will get the Twisp-owned fire truck, (which has about six years left of its service life), and, in exchange, the town won’t pay the district property taxes for town-owned property (like the new Civic and Public Works buildings) for 15 years.
The district will have a more reliable funding source (property tax revenue) for the services it provides to everyone in Twisp, and the town will no longer pay a $60,000 per year service contract for fire protection services.
For current District 6 property owners, annexation will not increase their property taxes or insurance rates.
For Twisp property owners, annexation will not increase their insurance rates. They will begin paying the District 6 property tax, but at 61 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, the levy rate is modest and a bargain relative to that of comparable eastern Washington rural fire districts (average levy rate, 90 cents per $1,000.) And, the $60,000 a year saved from not contracting for fire protection plus the revenue from the sale of the fire station will allow the town to provide benefits it would not otherwise be able to provide its residents.
So, annexation will help everyone. Please vote “yes” on Proposition No. 1.
I support a pool for the Methow Valley. However, I do not support a year -round indoor aquatics center. It is stated in the My Turn column of June 28, that “we are community members just trying to find the most equitable way to support a pool long term.” What is equitable about a bill that levies taxes on property owners only?
It has been said we are taxed on other necessary services. These services are listed on your tax bill. Here is a tax that is worthwhile and lifesaving. The Okanogan Conservation District tax is for towns and individuals wanting to have wildfire risk assessment on their property. Last week’s paper mentioned that Twisp did not choose to join the district, but the DNR offers an alternative for those wanting an assessment.
The paper also said that property assessments were up by 30%. That doesn’t always mean a tax increase but the current real estate market is still “hot.” Comparable sale prices have not gone down. This could further add to our taxes. An Aquatics District tax would only add to the already high taxes.
The aquatics center started off with a $20 million estimate. The June 21 edition of the Methow Valley News states it is now in the vicinity of $21 million. Net operating costs are estimated to be around $500,000 yearly.
The feasibility study states, “Depending on the cost to build and operate the facility, the tax bases in Twisp and Okanogan County may not be adequate to sustainably fund services. Alternatively, funds could be adequate, and there may be a need to ‘right-size’ the district to better align funding and usage of the facility among taxpayers.”
Those on fixed incomes and lower-income property owners will be impacted the most. Is anyone thinking of them?
This proposal will most surely be on the November ballot. But I will vote no. There are other pressing needs in the valley. Just because there is no taxing district doesn’t mean there can’t be a pool.