FERNDALE, Wash. — City of Ferndale staff have been scrambling today to schedule a special meeting of the Ferndale City Council to determine if a veto, issued today by Mayor Jon Mutchler, of the recently council approved property tax increase will be upheld or overridden.
Mutchler submitted the following letter explaining his veto of the ordinance.mutchler-veto-letter-2019-11-25
The following supporting documents accompanied Mutchler’s letter.mutchler-veto-supporting-material-2019-11-25
As a result of the veto, City staff have made arrangements for a special meeting of the City Council on Wednesday, November 27th, for a reconsideration of the ordinance to increase 2020 property taxes collected by about $473,440. This increase was earmarked to be used address police staffing and studying options for new city hall, council chambers and municipal court facilities. Typical increases in property taxes, as pointed out by Mutchler, had been closer to $12,000 (1% of $1.2 million).
If a vote is held on whether to override or uphold the Mayor’s veto, it will require at least 5 of the 7 councilmembers’ votes to override the veto.
A staff report issued today said overturning the veto would leave the property tax increase in place. Upholding the veto would require city staff and the council to make changes to the 2020 budget through cost-cutting and increasing revenues.
The approved property tax increase made use of 33% of what had been identified as a “banked capacity” to increase the amount of property taxes collected beyond the allowed 1% while not requiring a vote of the people. This came after the city stopped collecting taxes which were used to support Whatcom Fire District 7’s providing their services to addresses within the city. When the city stopped and the district began collecting those taxes, the property tax collected by the city dropped by more than half to about $1.2 million. It was determined the city held the ability to return to collecting up to the same amount of property tax again since it was deemed “banked capacity.“
Adding to the complexity of the situation, the question of who will occupy 2 of the council seats is dependent upon the swearing in of 2 new councilmembers which was expected to occur at the next regular council meeting on December 2nd. But, with the 2019 General Election expected to be certified tomorrow, apparent councilmember-elects Ryan O’Larey and Ramon Llanos could be sworn in the next day during Wednesday’s special meeting and able to vote. Their positions had been temporarily filled by Gary Jensen and Carol Bersch due to unexpected retirements by Councilmembers Cathy Watson and Fred Kennedy earlier this year. Other newly elected councilmembers will be sworn in at the first regular council meeting of 2020.
This is the first time Mutchler has used his veto power to reverse a vote of the City Council. While he verbally threatened he was going to use it during his second month of being Mayor, he never actually did.