Journal of the San Juan Islands


Absent in mayor's 2013 budget plan? utility rate hike, property tax increase

November 13, 2012 · Updated 4:44 PM

Citing "new opportunities and recovering revenue," Friday Harbor Mayor Carrie Lacher released a proposed budget for 2013 with some new spending, but without tax increases or utility rate hikes.

About $350,000 in additional funds will be available from the town portion of the sales tax increase approved by the voters in August, 2012, for public safety. Lacher proposes that the money be used to fund a Code Enforcement position for the town, pay for present and future street and sidewalk repair and installation, and reimburse the county for police and court services to the town.

Aging water mains and lines, evidenced by the Labor Day Spring Street water main breaks, are an element of the 2013 budget. Lacher proposes replacing the water mains along the length of Spring Street, providing necessary repairs to the water main on Pear Point (which has broken twice in the last year), and begin the funding process for the $8 million cost to replace the water transmission line from the Trout Lake reservoir to Friday Harbor.

Lacher also proposes that the town use lodging tax money to contribute to the Brickworks rehabilitation project.

"I believe that the Town’s participation is overdue and the Brickworks Board has exhibited the dedication and perseverance necessary to bring this project to fruition," said Lacher.

In return for the unspecified Brickworks grant, Lacher wants town use of the Brickworks "for a fixed number of days annually" and wants the Brickworks board to track and report utilization statistics for the facility at events such as the Farmer’s Market.

Lacher says she's "convinced this project will pay dividends to the town for years to come."

On the revenue side, as Lacher enters a reelection year, she is asking that the town council not impose the state-authorized 1 percent annual property tax increase, and that scheduled increases for public utility rates, such as sewer and water, be postponed.

"I think this will provide a clear message to the citizens that 'we get it',” she said in a press release.

The net result, according to preliminary budget figures presented to the Town Council in October: a 9 per cent budget increase to $10.04 million. The council and mayor will discuss financial plans for the town in the coming year during the noon session of Thursday's council meeting.

— Steve Wehrly, Journal reporter



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