FERNDALE, Wash. — During Monday’s regular City Council meeting, councilmembers and the public were provided information from City staff regarding need to increase the 2020 property tax levy in order to begin setting aside funds for capital project improvements like a new city hall and court facility.
City Administrator Jori Burnett explain how, over the last two decades, the City was able to sustain itself through cost-cutting and austerity measures. These things were done with the expectation that sales tax revenues from 1 or more proposed large retail developments would eventually transform the City’s revenue base.
Councilmember and former Mayor Gary Jensen described prior councils as having blinders on, always hoping a big store would build in the city and with it a boost in retail sales tax revenue. Jensen explained that it was decided in 1976 to convert the old fire station into the current City Hall Annex building to house council and court chambers. This was done as a temporary change. 33 years later, the space is still in use for those same purposes.
The Ferndale City Council was provided with a report from Ferndale Chief of Police Kevin Turner. His report was of under-paid officers with 2 or 3 set to retire.
New officers will need to be hired and some will need to be sent to training. The City pays about $10,000 per officer for training and the officer’s salary is paid while being trained. But, once trained, officers are some times recruited by other police departments that pay better. Without additional funding to increase wages and cover overtime while the new officers are in training, the department may be forced to reduce services according to Turner.
City Council members were also presented with a report from Ferndale Municipal Court Judge Mark Kaiman. It is Kaiman’s conclusion that the current court room, which also serves as City Council chambers, is inadequate. He highlighted major safety issues and a lack of privacy for all parties. Kaiman said Washington State Supreme Court Justice Gonzalez, while on a recent tour of the Ferndale facility, said that the current space could not provide a fair hearing for anyone. Kaiman requested a new municipal court building and that the city set aside taxes from the proposed 100% banked capacity increase to accomplish that.
A public hearing regarding the proposed 2020 property tax levy was held during the meeting and 6 citizens spoke to the council, including 2 candidates for City Council. All but 2 spoke adamantly against taking 100% of the banked capacity.
While the staff report indicated the majority of the funds would be set aside for a new city hall, there were few details about that provided during the meeting.
From the staff report:
CONCLUSIONS: The majority of the banked capacity will be set aside to assist in a down payment for the building of a new City Hall, to reduce the annual debt payments and interest for the life of the loan. Additional funds would assist in police department staffing and compensation, asset management, and LEOFF I retiree fund.
City Council members will decide on November 18th if a property tax levy increase will take effect and in what form.