The Herald of Everett, Washington
HeraldNet on Facebook HeraldNet on Twitter HeraldNet RSS feeds HeraldNet Pinterest HeraldNet Google Plus HeraldNet Youtube
HeraldNet Newsletters  Newsletters: Sign up | Manage  Green editions icon Green editions


HeraldNet Headlines
HeraldNet Newsletter Delivered to your inbox each week.
Published: Sunday, November 25, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
In Our View: Snohomish County's 2013 budget

The start of taxing season

Benjamin Franklin meant to insert an asterisk after scribbling, "Nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." As all budget-bird-doggers know, those certain-as-death taxes are jawboned in the third quarter of the holiday rush. Families soak in "The Wizard of Oz," but they pay no attention to the man behind the (tax) curtain.
Last Monday, the Snohomish County Council took that unenviable seasonal step, voting 3-2 in favor of a property tax bump, a full 72 hours before the turkey-tryptophan haze. As The Herald's Noah Haglund reports, the council vote raises the county's general levy by approximately 3 percent, adding $2 million to the budget. This translates into an additional $6.70 in taxes for the average (property assessed at $241,000) homeowner.
The County Council has bypassed property tax increases for nearly a decade. And budget austerity has consequences. Since 2008, the county government has laid off 350 employees, in addition to curtailing services. Sheriff John Lovick and County Prosecutor Mark Roe's offices have been especially slammed. The budget strategy embraced by County Executive Aaron Reardon revolves around an annual attrition rate of 2.5 percent. Over the long term, however, an attrition strategy undermines innovative budgeting. It's more sensible and efficient to recommend a department director cut programs by X percent rather than prohibit hiring an essential, left-vacant position.
The budget is also a corrective. Snohomish County has not expanded programs for mental health and drug-treatment programs pursuant to its 0.1 percent sales tax increase. Thanks to council members Gossett, Sullivan and Wright, that appropriation wrong was mended.
One cut-it-to-the-marrow criticism is the first phase of a courthouse redevelopment plan budgeted at $68 million. Councilmember Dave Somers, a budget dissenter along with Councilmember John Koster, said, "It's kind of like putting a rebuilt engine in an old car." A rebuilt engine is an instructive metaphor for the process a whole, with so much tinkering and parts trading that it's hard to avoid cynicism.
In the end, however, the council managed a no-frills, keep-it-level 2013 budget. All of the council -- including the budget scoffers -- exhibited conscientious, in-the-weeds public service. We hope that the county executive, who promised to sign the budget, keeps his word.
With so many taxing districts, it's also easy to forget the Port of Everett. Here the taxing process, while adhering to the letter of the law, is a little more opaque. Notice was just sent regarding a public hearing and special meeting of the Port Commission that includes discussion and a vote on the 2013 property-tax levy. Resolution No. 975, the levy in question, is not available on the port website. This puts the burden on citizens to scramble with day-of homework to participate in any meaningful way. We hope the Commission uses the meeting scheduled for this Tuesday, Nov. 27, at 9:00 am to discuss the resolution, but postpones the levy vote by a week. Taxes may be certain, but a seasonal pardon for budget watchdogs is only fair.

Share your comments: Log in using your HeraldNet account or your Facebook, Twitter or Disqus profile. Comments that violate the rules are subject to removal. Please see our terms of use. Please note that you must verify your email address for your comments to appear.

You are logged in using your HeraldNet ID. Click here to update your profile. | Log out.

Our new comment system is not supported in IE 7. Please upgrade your browser here.

comments powered by Disqus
digital subscription promo

Subscribe now

Unlimited digital access starting at 99 cents, or included with any print subscription.


Herald Editorial Board

Jon Bauer, Opinion Editor:

Carol MacPherson, Editorial Writer:

Neal Pattison, Executive Editor:

Josh O'Connor, Publisher:

Have your say

Feel strongly about something? Share it with the community by writing a letter to the editor. Send letters by e-mail to, by fax to 425-339-3458 or mail to The Herald - Letters, P.O. Box 930, Everett, WA 98206. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We'll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 250 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it. If your letter is published, please wait 30 days before submitting another. Have a question about letters? Contact Carol MacPherson at or 425-339-3472.