Political OP/ED: Prop. 1 – What will it cost?

op-ed disclaimerProp. 1 asks us to vote for two things – one is a property tax and the other is creation of a Metropolitan Park District (MPD). The MPD is the expensive part. Here’s why.

We’ll start by looking at MPD taxing authority. State law RCW 35.61 defines the situations and limits for an MPD to ask voters to approve taxes or issue debt. State law also grants an MPD limited power to
raise taxes or incur debt with a simple vote of the commissioners.

The City of Shelton chose not to be part of the new MPD. So MPD taxing authority would be based on the assessed value of property in unincorporated Mason County.

At the July 19 meeting County Commissioners meeting, County staff reported that the assessed value of unincorporated Mason County is $6.4 billion. Knowing this, we can calculate the amount of new taxes the park commissioners will be authorized to collect if we pass Prop. 1 in November.

Remember that property tax on the ballot? “…twenty cents per $1,000 of assessed value.” That translates to $20 for a home assessed at $100,000. It works out to $1.27 million in year 1.

But what about the future? It turns out $20 per $100,000 assessment is a starting point, not a limit. RCW 35.61.210 “specifically authorizes” a metropolitan park district to collect property tax up to $75 per $100,000 assessment. This is authority to collect property taxes up to $4.7 million a year – 3.75 times
higher than the initial $20 per $100,000 cited on the ballot. The same statute also authorizes the MPD board to call special elections to “ask” voters if they approve even higher taxes.

And then there’s debt. RCW 35.61.100 tells us the “Indebtedness limit—Without popular vote” is up to “one quarter of one percent” of assessed value. So on top of the property taxes, the MPD board could vote to create up to $1.6 million of public debt. With voter approval, that number could rise to $15.9 million. (RCW 35.61.110)

Of course, this is just a review of one chapter of the RCW. There are many other statutes affecting taxes.

We don’t know how aggressively the new Metropolitan Park District will utilize these powers, but we do know we’ve already got a heavy tax burden in Mason County. Do we want to open the door to even
more, just to duplicate the County Parks Department?

Learn more at www.masoncountyfocus.com.

No campaign paid for this message.
It was prepared by Barb Parsloe, Independent.