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Published on Friday, September 28, 2012

Legislators hear from cities and counties about junior taxing district consolidation ideas

The group of eight legislators charged with looking at possible consolidation of special/junior taxing districts held their third meeting earlier this week. They’re also tasked with looking at local government finances and, in particular, impacts from liquor privatization and changes made last session to liquor fund distributions.

At this meeting, they asked to hear from city and county officials. At future meetings, they’ll hear from as many of these districts as choose to appear. It also became evident, in part because we asked, that they’ll soon dive into looking at finance and liquor privatization issues – the ones we care most about.

This Joint Select Committee comprises two members from each House and Senate Caucus. It is chaired by former Kirkland Mayor, Rep. Larry Springer (D-Kirkland), and the vice-chair is Sen. Doug Ericksen (R-Ferndale).

City panelists shared that if efficiencies can be found and incentives provided to help consolidation occur, that would be a good thing. To our knowledge, cities have not made such consolidations a high priority. Instead, we’ve pursued ways to facilitate mergers or regionalization of service provision as local options.

We did note the longstanding concern of several cities (mostly newly incorporated ones or those annexing significant built-up areas) served by water/sewer districts. State law prohibits cities from charging district customers a utility tax, a revenue stream used by those charging it to support general government services. We cited legislation we supported from a few years ago that authorizes a pilot program in Renton. The program allows the city and water district to enter into an interlocal agreement that would allow imposition of a city utility tax in exchange for not taking over the district without a vote of the customers. Efforts to reach agreement with districts to allow this statewide have so far been unsuccessful.

If you or your city has a special issue with one or more special/junior taxing districts, please contact AWC’s Dave Williams. We’ll continue to urge committee members to focus attention on city and county finance issues.

Categories: Budget & finance