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Meltdown, flood threat show why new district is needed

Post by TNT Editorial Board / The News Tribune on Jan. 22, 2012 at 2:07 pm with 4 Comments »
January 20, 2012 5:29 pm

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

The flooding threat posed by the meltdown of last week’s snow and ice is timely ammunition for the Pierce County Council’s attempt to create a flood-control taxing district.

Even areas that aren’t close to major rivers have experienced problems caused by too much water. Overtaxed storm drains and catch basins present surface-water issues for county residents who don’t live anywhere near rivers like the Puyallup or Nisqually.

That’s why the council’s new approach makes sense: Give communities that aren’t threatened by river flooding access to some of the flood district’s revenues for stormwater control. For cities that aren’t near rivers, that kind of sweetener should be attractive.

The original plan for a flood-control district failed in 2010 due mainly to opposition from cities outside flood-vulnerable areas. They didn’t see how they would benefit from a tax that went into projects to control flooding and runoff of contaminants into Puget Sound.

That’s flawed thinking. It’s been estimated that a major flood in Pierce County could do $725 million in damage, perhaps shutting down highways, businesses and the Port of Tacoma. Such a disaster would hurt just about everyone in the county in some way.

The County Council proposal would cost only 10 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation – $25 a year for the owner of a $250,000 home. It would raise about $8.5 million a year for flood-control efforts and – under the new plan – local stormwater control.

The council has so far shied away from a tiered taxing system that would charge property owners in flood zones a higher rate. But that system likely would enjoy more widespread support and could have the added benefit of discouraging new development in flood-prone areas. Insurers charge more to customers depending on their locations; why shouldn’t the flood-control district?

The council is scheduled to vote Jan. 31 on creating the district, and it appears that the votes are there for approval. While the plan is a sound one, it would be even better with a tiered tax rate.

Leave a comment Comments → 4
  1. No taxing authority or district. Its a license to steal for pet projects. Put it on the ballot for the people to vote on!!!

  2. smcelhiney says:

    Maybe the TNT author doesn’t know of a taxing authority that already covers stormwater… Surface Water Management. BTW… the snow shut pretty much everything down, I haven’t made any real money in a week… shall we start a snow fall district that covers the county? That impacts more people than flooding.

  3. S_Emerson says:

    QUESTION 1 for TNT – what made you decide to not mention that the language specifically allows UP TO 50-cents per thousand dollars of assessed value? Simply because the Council claims they’ll cap it at 10-cents per (while trying to get this implemented WITHOUT voter approval) doesn’t mean they’ll stick to their ‘promise’.

    QUESTION 2 – Why you aren’t supportive of putting this issue before the voters?

    QUESTION 3 – might you want to include information on how the water-related taxes we’re already paying differ from this new proposed tax? (“Surface Water Management Principal” and “Drainage District Principal”)

    FYI – my annual average figures based on the past 6 years are:

    Average Annual Assessed Value – $204,000
    Average Annual Property Tax — $3,373
    Average Annual SWM and DDP —- $210

    This new tax, at 10-cents per thousand, would have added an annual average of about $20 to my tax bill (about a 10% increase in water-management taxes).

    This new tax at 50-cents per thousand would have added an annual average of about $100 per year to my tax bill (about a 50% increase in water-management taxes).

    So I’d be looking at either $230-ish to $330-ish annual taxation for water-related ‘maintenance’. I’m only one small ‘contributor’ among many, but surely I’m not the only one wanting to know where and how my contribution is being spent.


  4. ransteth says:

    The other problem is that if this is set up, and it does generate money, it is popular to rob the flush accounts and siphon the money into something else. (ie: sewer fund monies to build a golf course)

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