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San Juan County Council approves increase in Noxious Weed Control levy

In a special session today, the San Juan County Council voted 4-2 to grant a $3 dollar-per-parcel increase in the Noxious Weed Control Levy.

The new annual levy will total $6.25 per parcel of non-forest land, plus 62.5 cents per acre.

Noxious Weed Board Chairwoman Amanda Azous told the council that 93 percent of the parcel owners in the county will pay $18.50 or less per year; most taxpayers will pay about half that amount.

Because the Noxious Weed Control levy is a flat charge on each parcel, the program’s revenue remains almost the same from year-to-year. Azous told the council that because of increases in operating costs over the past six years, the program has had to reduce its two employees to half-time or less and cannot fund on-the-job transportation expenses for its employees or storage facilities for equipment.

The council had rejected the board’s request for a larger increase in the parcel charge in November. Today, Council member Gene Knapp, Orcas East, repeated his objections, citing revenue shortfalls that have forced budget reductions in 19 county departments. He and Councilman Rich Peterson, San Juan North, who said he would support sending the proposal to the voters to decide, voted against the increase.

In support of the increase, Council member Alan Lichter, Orcas West – who was attending his last meeting before retiring from the council – argued that the board had already taken its cuts in previous years and joined Council member Bob Myhr, Lopez/Shaw, in calling its work essential in preserving the environment and protecting agriculture.

The Noxious Weed Control Levy is separate from the county’s general revenue sources and has no direct financial impact on the County Current budget, which funds other county departments, according to the county communications office.

The levy will appear on the annual tax bill statement sent out by the County Treasurer later this month.

Council members Lichter, Myhr, Council Chairman Howie Rosenfeld and outgoing member, state Senator-elect Kevin Ranker, provided the four votes needed to adopt the levy increase.

The Noxious Weed Control levy was adopted in 2002 after a countywide advisory vote. The program is charged with working to eradicate or control the spread of poisonous weeds and invasive plants that are dangerous to humans or animals, an economic threat to agriculture or degrade the environment.

The levy increase proposal had received several dozen letters of support from environmentalists and farmers, as well as the Land Bank and the county Parks and Public Works departments.

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