At the end of the July 2nd Yakima City Council meeting, Councilwoman Kay Funk asked for a future conversation on two topics of financial interest to the residents of the city.

One is the Levy Lid Lift, the other a potential Charter change to free up money dedicated for streets and parks.

This post is just a heads up to remind you to keep your eyes and ears open on these topics because if the council acts, you will have to vote to approve or disapprove their plans in 2020.

An organization known by the initials  MRSC helps governments around the state and helped Yakima with advice a number of times during my terms on City Council. Wikipedia descibes them -- "The Municipal Research and Services Center (MRSC) is a non-profit organization based in Seattle with a mission of, "supporting effective local government in Washington through trusted consultation, research, training, and collaboration."

Each year, by state law, the city of Yakima can and usually does, raise your property taxes by just 1% over the previous year and its done without a public vote. There is a lid on taxing -- so to raise more money, the percentage of tax has to be increased or "lifted."

So, let's start with MRSC's basic definition of the Levy Lid Lift.

"What is a Levy Lid Lift?

 A taxing jurisdiction that is collecting less than its maximum statutory levy rate may ask a simple majority of voters to “lift” the total levy amount collected from current assessed valuation by more than 1% (RCW 84.55.050 – also see WAC 458-19-045, which provides a better understanding of the process than the statute). The new levy rate cannot exceed the maximum statutory rate.

Levy lid lifts may generate revenue for any purpose, but if the amount of the increase for a particular year would require a levy rate above the statutory maximum tax rate, the assessor will levy only the maximum amount allowed by law."

The conversation gets a little complicated from here so you can research details through MRSC or the RCW's but the important point to take away is that council members -not up for re-election- are at least planning a conversation on an increased property tax for the 2020 ballot.  That's worth noting.

The second item is a potential City Charter change to release money locked in the budget for streets and parks only.

In the November 2013 general election the citizens of Yakima voted to change the City Charter to set aside 2-million a year to guarantee money in the city budget each year to repair city streets and sidewalks

The vote was YES 67.4% (9,372 votes)    to    No 32.6% (4,534 votes)

The next year in the November 2014 general election city voters again voted to change the City Charter to lock in $750-thousand a year for parks and recreation use only.

The vote was YES 68.69% (11,784 votes)  to  No  31.31% (5,372  votes)

The voters of Yakima spoke loud and clear on the desire to set aside money for these maintenance and enhancement projects.  Now Councilwoman Funk wants to talk about the prospect of trying to change the Charter again, to remove the requirements to fund these projects first.

Those of us on council at the time knew when the community passed the measures that the city was trading financial flexibility for outcomes assurance and now, with tighter budgets, the council wants more budget wiggle room.

One thing KIT is looking into is the prospect of the money already being committed.  My council memory has faded a bit but I seem to recall the streets we fixed at the time and our agreements with SOZO Sports and the YMCA Aquatics center already tied up the 2.75 million for 20 years which means about another 14 more years to go before it's available for any sort of "flexible" use.

I could be wrong, but we're checking on it and will let you know after the 4th of July Holiday.  And speaking of that - Happy 4th of July to you and yours on this celebration of America's independence and freedom.  Have fun, be safe!


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