City Approves Taxes and Fee Increases, Cuts Projects in 2013, 2014

City Council increased the typical Mercer Island homeowner's taxes by $74.54 in 2013 and $91.51 in 2014 in taxes and fees — not including a voter-approved annual tax increase of $60.20 for the Fire Station/Truck levy.

Mercer Island City Council approved a series of tax and fee increases and capital project cuts to balance the city's biennial general fund budget for 2013 and 2014 at Nov. 19 public meeting at City Hall.

The city council approved a series of motions to approve various fees and tax increases, including: a property tax increase of 1 percent; a new uniform tax rate on water, sewer, and storm water utilities of 3.9 percent; various utility rate increases (for city and county-provided services); permit fee increases; and an increase to the city's ambulance fee.

Local resident Carv Zwingle sought to appeal to the council's sensitivity toward increasing the tax burden on residents of limited means, referring to himself and others on fixed incomes who had retired who make up a large part of the Mercer Island community.

Zwingle says the increase is due to a general fund shortfall, and asks for a sense of the vision from the council.

"I'm sure your intent is not to create a community of residents in their prime earning years," he said. "These incremental tax increases may not mean a lot to you, but they do to us," he said.

City Council also deferred spending on several capital projects, including the First Hill Drainage System Extension ($425,000 in 2013), the Island Crest Way and 85th Avenue water system improvements ($1.6 million in 2013), and the East Mercer Way Sewer Replacement ($500,000 in 2014).

The council-authorized tax increases are needed, say the city, to balance the budget. The tax increases are combined in the table below with the impacts of a voter-approved Prop. 1 Fire Station/Rescue Truck Levy on the "typical" Mercer Island homeowner.

A "typical" homeowner is defined as a family of four which owns a home with an assessed value of $700,000.

Proposed Tax Increase



Levy lid lift ballot measure for fire station & fire rescue truck (if it passes)



1% property tax increase



Utility tax on water, sewer & storm water utilities (3.4% in 2013 and 5.0% in 2014)



Total annual tax impact



Proposed Utility Rate Increases

Description 2012 2013 2014 Mercer Island bi-monthly bill $241.19 $255.41 $262.51 Rate increase over prior year 5.9% 5.9% 2.8% Dollar increase over prior year $13.39 $14.22 $7.10
Thomas Imrich November 21, 2012 at 06:50 PM
@Lisa. Crime. Safety. Power reliability (like reversing the bad decision the Council made on the south end dual feed to the sub-station), sewer maintenance. Assured if not even improved citizen timely accessess on and off the Island on the bridges. Real Emergency Preparedness (not faux building replacement that has little or no effect on actual capability), Park and Ride availability and control to assure availability for MI citizens, not for eastside commuters, support for the schools (north end traffic solutions for our pending north end school),... the list goes on and on. Besides, who are you anyway Lisa Thomas? How do we know you're even a real voting resident, and not a PR firm, or front for a Council member?
J.Matsuura November 21, 2012 at 09:21 PM
I've been watching these budget proceedings for the past few months and the basic format is flawed. This (or any) budget is a balancing act.The City should say "this is the money that we have" and "these are the things we absolutely need--let's fund them first" and then Council can discuss less vital items and see if there's money left. Instead, the City presents spending piecemeal in the context of what was spent the year before. Even if council members mean well, w/ the big picture so obscured it's easy to get distracted and focus only on spending, instead of questioning whether it should be spent. Yes--it can be easy to say no--but it's apparently really easy to say yes if the alternative is sticky choices. E.g. no one is looking at the salaries of exec staff. The City Manager makes $166k (+a $6k bonus)--more than the Mayor of Seattle or the Governor. The Deputy CM makes $150k (just $10k less than the Mayor of Seattle--MI has GOT to be an easier city to manage than Seattle). We have an HR director overseeing a staff of 2 who makes $138k and so on. And these numbers don't include benefits. The City says low water usage is partly why they're raising water rates, even though they saved $85k because people conserved. Staff are crossing their fingers for an extra cold winter so that residents will burn more gas--giving the city more tax revenue. BTW: being frugal doesn't mean we can't have nice things. The Council funded Shakespeare/Music and lifeguards w/out breaking the bank.
Jerry Gropp Architect AIA November 21, 2012 at 11:19 PM
. We just want our previous investments preserved- and built upon, not torn down. Nothing at all too hard to understand there- as Mike Cero certainly does. JerryG-
Lisa Thomas November 21, 2012 at 11:38 PM
Thomas, congrats you got me. I am a front for a council member. Yup, the council members are so unwilling to state their position (even though they do it every week on TV), they found it necessary to hide behind a citizen to voice their views. Incredible. I didn't think accusations like that were made anymore. I do feel like we're in the 1950s or something.....
Jerry Gropp Architect AIA November 22, 2012 at 01:24 AM
. JM- It will take all the said "extra" $113,000 (and probably more) to rebuild what's to be torn down. JerryG-


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