A parable of fiscal irresponsibility | Letter

The voters of San Juan are being asked to approve on Feb. 11 an increase in the sales and use tax to fund an emergency communication system.

I do not question the need for the emergency system, but I do question the need to raise taxes.

• Sales tax receipts have been growing at a very fast rate, at a compound annual rate of 7.95 percent over the last 10 years — more than doubling. In 2019 they grew by 10.2 percent. New construction is vibrant in the county and thus sales tax receipts in 2020 should remain very robust.

• Property tax revenues are also rising sharply as a result of November’s voter-approved levy lift. In 2020 property tax revenues to fund the county’s general expense fund will rise by a whopping 21.3 percent or by $1.27 million.

We have not yet received from the county our annual property tax notice. It will contain several unpleasant surprises that will not be disclosed to us until after we vote on Feb. 11.

• Countywide, property taxes will increase by 21.3 percent. Normally the tax effect of increases in property valuations is mitigated by the State’s cap of 1 percent in the annual growth of property taxes. However, because of the November levy lift, the State cap on San Juan County property taxes will be held in abeyance for 2020. Thus this year the full impact of the 9.8 percent increase in property valuations will flow directly into the calculation of property taxes. The county never once disclosed this very material fact to the voters in November.

• There will be other tax increases in the notice. The state’s Levy Part 2 — funds raised due to the McCleary Decision — will jump an astronomical 54 percent, from $5.4 million countywide to $8.3 million in 2020.

In sum, 2020 will be an unusually rich year for county tax receipts and an unusually painful year for its taxpayers. It is insulting to county taxpayers to propose another tax increase in 2020. In fact, it simply boggles the mind.

Robert deGavre

San Juan Island