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City Council meeting yields higher property taxes

Gary Jensen and Carol Bersch pose with appreciation certificates received from the City for filling in on City Council for a few months (November 19, 2019). Photo: Ben O'Brine

FERNDALE, Wash. — Mayor Jon Mutchler began the Ferndale City Council regular meeting Monday, November 18th, with a moment of silence for former Ferndale Chief of Police Michael Knapp. 

City Council Members voted 5 to 2, to use 33% of the City’s $1.4 million banked capacity to increase property taxes during 2020. The decision needed to be made during this meeting to meet the Whatcom County Assessor’s November 30th deadline.

Council Member Carol Bersch made the motion to use 33%. Council Member Xczar’s moved to amend that to use 50% of the banked capacity. Council Member Olsen moved to to include language ensuring the police departments received first priority regarding how the tax revenue was spent. Council Member Hansen moved to designate a specific amount for the Police department instead. All amendments failed. 

The vote on the initial motion to use 33% of the City’s banked capacity passed 5 to 2 with Xzcar, Bersch, Bishop, Taylor and Hansen voting to approve and Jensen and Olsen opposed. 

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The first of 2 Public Hearings on the City’s 2020 budget was held but no one from the public spoke. A 2nd public comment hearing will be held during the next regular City Council meeting on Monday, December 2nd.

Citizens will be able to talk to staff about the budget and other topics during a City Community Meeting scheduled for Tuesday, November 19th, at 6:30pm at the Pioneer Pavilion Community Center.

Ferndale Council members voted unanimously to enter into 3-year $1.9-million contract with Reichardt and Ebe Engineering for construction engineering services associated with the Thornton Street overpass project. 

Lastly, the City Council voted 5 to 2 to enter into an interlocal agreement with Whatcom County for a wayfinding signage program. Council Members Bersch and Olson opposed. The wayfinding program’s purpose is to create uniform traffic signs to direct drivers to public parks and facilities. As per the terms of the agreement, the City of Ferndale would be compensated 50% by the County for vehicular signage. The city will include $100,000 into the 2020 budget for this purpose. City Administrator Jori Burnett emphasized the City was under no obligation to spend anything under this agreement.

This was the last council meeting for Jensen and Bersch. They were appointed in June to fill seats vacated on the council until voters could elect replacements. Certification of the General Election results is expected to happen on November 26th. Council Members Elect Ramon Llanos and Ryan O’Larey are expected to be sworn in during the next council meeting on December 2nd and assume those seats at the council.


  1. Arnold Evanson November 19, 2019

    We don’t need property taxes raised! Mine just INCREASED by $200 per year simply due to the very recent county property valuation assessment!

    Was that considered?

    An increase on top of that is too much too fast!

    Becoming unaffordable to live in my own house and support my family.

    Make some cuts in the budget!

  2. David Foreman November 19, 2019

    What this story doesn’t report is that City administration was asking for a tax increase 3 times as large as what City Council voted. As someone who attended the meeting, I think the outcome was fair, and Council was thoughtful (mostly) in deciding this outcome.

  3. Richard Wahl November 20, 2019

    The one thing all politicians are capable of is……….raising taxes. For one thing, it’s not their money they’re spending, and for another, they just don’t seem to quite get it, when it comes to running a government. IF, it were their own household that they were running, it would be quite a different story, to say the least. It’s easy to say what they want, but, if it can be put off or just plain not really needed, they just don’t seem to have any empathy at all for those of us who have to pay their tax hikes, to get what they want. However, people, on the other hand, shouldn’t have to depend on the government to give them just what they want, for if they do, then they better be prepared to pay the piper. Tax hikes always hurts the ones who can least afford it.

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