County short on cash | Letter

San Juan County is in financial distress. The county is short on cash and cannot cover expenses. Property taxes and sales taxes constitute its only revenue sources. With those revenues less than county obligations, county officials stretch for new revenue sources. Despite a decrease in property values from 2021, the county duplicitously increases property assessments by 15% and proportionally increases property taxes to cover county deficits. The increased property taxes encourage more property sales, increase housing supply, lower property values and reduce property taxes.

With failing small businesses, an increase in sales taxes seems imminent. The increased sales taxes will further stress local businesses, push them toward failure and reduce sales tax revenue.

The county confronts a tough position and pursues policies worsening its position. The fundamental problem is the county lacks the wealth base to advance its policies. That problem forces the county to reduce its ambitions or become a ghost community. The county differs little from a played-out mining town running out of ore and seeking a set for future Western films.

John Drake

Friday Harbor