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Puyallup weighs tax options

Post by Melissa Santos / The Olympian on Nov. 18, 2009 at 1:35 am with 7 Comments »
November 18, 2009 2:51 pm

Puyallup’s rosy financial picture has darkened in 2009, and city officials are looking at ways to save.

But their first move hasn’t been laying off staff or slashing programs: rather, the city is reconsidering $7.8 million in tax cuts that it promised citizens last year.

That’s how much city officials estimated it cost them to run the Puyallup Fire Department before it annexed into Central Pierce Fire and Rescue at the beginning of 2009.

Before voters approved the merger, city officials said that they’d reduce Puyallup’s taxes to offset the loss of the city fire department before 2010, when Central Pierce would begin taxing Puyallup residents for fire service. The City Council passed a motion specifying the amount of the promised tax reduction – approximately 7.8 million – in September 2008 and told residents in the Pierce County Voters Guide that “there would be no ‘double tax’” if voters approved the proposal.

Then the economy tanked.

Now, Puyallup officials want to reduce taxes by less than the $7.8 million total, citing declining city revenues.

“These are tight times,” Mayor Don Malloy said Tuesday. “These are tight times for governments, and these are tight times for families. I think we have to be responsible for both.”

Puyallup’s initial property tax levy proposal for 2010 would have lowered taxes by only $1.6 million, the value of the city’s current emergency medical services levy.

City officials have since begun reviewing other options, including the most recent council proposal to lower taxes by a total of $6.1 million. The council preliminarily approved the latest tax levy proposal with a 4-3 vote Tuesday. They’ll have to vote again on it before it’s final.

Some council members said they wouldn’t support anything but a tax reduction of $7.8 million, the full amount the council indicated it would cut last year.

“To keep any of that money would be a double tax burden on the citizens,” said Councilman John Knutsen. “I’m not going to support anything but what we agreed to.”

Councilmen Rick Hansen and George Dill also opposed the $6.1 million tax reduction proposal.

“We made a commitment,” Hansen said. “How can we not follow through with that?”

The council will take a final vote on its 2010 property tax levy at an upcoming meeting that has yet to be scheduled. According to state law, the city must set its 2010 levy rate by the end of November

Puyallup was one of the only cities in the South Sound that reported saving money last year while neighboring jurisdictions struggled.  City Manager Gary McLean predicted that the city would end 2008 with a $6 million reserve in its general fund, or about 12 percent of the fund total.

Updated budget numbers, however, show the city brought in  about $2.4 million less than expected during the end of 2008 and is projected to bring in $1.7 million less than expected in 2009.

After cutting $1.9 million in expenditures in 2009, the city now believes it will end the year with about $4.2 million in reserve, about $2 million less than originally projected.

The city expects revenues will remain below budget projections in the coming year, Finance Director Cliff Craig said.

Leave a comment Comments → 7
  1. ClownPosse says:

    These stooges that you have running your City didn’t see this coming ?

    Great choice to lead your City Puyallup !

  2. uptodate says:

    Isn’t that the same line Gregoire used to get re-elected? Everything is just fine….

  3. tommy98466 says:

    Interesting. Every other Gov agency is laying off, furlough days etc whats wrong with Puyallup? I’m sure they think they are saving jobs. Time to make the hard management decisions and start the cuts now before the bleeding gets to the DOA level.

  4. And the city wants to annex NE Puyallup?
    And yes, unless your in day to day contact
    with the citizens government and non-profits
    are about jobs.

  5. snoopy123 says:

    Puyallup General Government doesn’t seem as bloated as others around the south sound. The school district may be another story.

    Puyallup has the luxury of having businesses such as Costco, Wal Mart and the South Hill Mall. Many people who live in the County shop at these places, keeping Puyallups coffers full of unincorporated tax dollars. I would wonder if the auto dealership vacancies and sluggish American car sales will affect Puyallup revenue though.

  6. I am sure it will pass on 4 to 3 vote.The same four councilmen will vote in favor of screwing over the Puyallup taxpayers. The four who hired the city manager.

  7. RonMorehouse says:

    Once again we see political elites lying to the people. If they did not plan on keeping their word. The mayor faught the annexation because he want to keep the money and not provide better service to the people. Since annexation Puyallup now has a full time ambulance service, faster emergency responses. Central Pierce Fire has once again passed a budget that does not include tax increases. This is the second time in 2 y;ears. All departments were involved in cutting real dollars from each department. could the city learn from this. The winner is the people.

    Of course the fire commissioners just care about people and quality service.

    Let us start electing people who keep their word, not just nice people.

    This is my person opinion.
    Ron Morehouse

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