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Utility Tax Funds Police and More? — Dave’s Diary

Strange night last night at city hall.  In addition to the council picking a Plaza plan to move forward the council also had a “conversation” and a vote about the city utility tax.  We definitely don’t all agree on this one.Back in December of 2011 the council passed a 6% increase in the utility tax to cover what was then about 1 million and a half dollar budget shortfall.  A number of cuts were going to happen but the utility tax would have covered the costs and allowed the status quo to continue.

In the end we made the cuts anyway, kept the tax and dedicated the increased tax money to public safety.  It was figured to be about two million dollars per year.

Two and a half years later the money generated has grown through increased utility usage and the amount now is in the neighborhood of an additional 800-thousand dollars.  Councilmembers Rick Ensey, Bill Lover and Tom Dittmar said they saw this as an opportunity to return the “extra” money to you.  We will need to define “extra”.

$800,000 isn’t chicken feed when it comes to funding city projects but it IS minimal in its impact going back to the taxpayers. It figures to be about 6.6 cents a day or 24 dollars for the year.

Sure it’s the principle. Anytime a government can “give back” it’s a great day and it’s a great for politicians to run a re-election bid on a platform of “we lowered taxes”.

But…the money is committed to public safety and there are plenty of needs there.  So where to get that 800 grand?  Answer: the general fund.  That isn’t a tax roll back, that’s semantics. That’s just grabbing more than three quarters of a million out of the operating funds of the city for a symbolic gesture.   Mr. Ensey and Mr. Lover have never liked the utility tax in the first place but they don’t complain about the results the extra money for police, fire and courts have brought about.

We can argue the re-election issue at a later time but for now I would encourage you to come to the city council public hearing at 6:30 pm on September the 16th and give us your two cents on the six cents versus the many, many needs the city has and the many wants or likes you might have to make Yakima a better more livable city.

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