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Tax meeting held

By Staff | Sep 27, 2013

Pierce County auditor Karin Fursather addresses a crowd of people attending a county mill levy hearing at the Pierce County Courthouse on Sept. 25.

More than 40 Pierce County taxpayers gathered in the courtroom at the top floor of the county’s courthouse on Sept. 26 for the public hearing regarding a 7.93 percent mill increase.

According to state law, an increase of more than 7.72 percent necessitates a public hearing.

The county had initially been under that percent, but some requests for extra social services employees at the September meeting, approved by the county commission, pushed the budget higher.

Both county auditor Karin Fursather and tax equalization director Kelsey Siegler addressed the crowd about the funding processes for the county.

The price of mills has gone up as property values rise in the county. In 2012, 85.31 mills were requested at a value of $1.89 million. In 2013, 80.40 mills were requested for $2.04 million in total taxes, or about a $150,000 increase.

More than 40 people attended the meeting, which lasted only around a half hour. Although there were only a few vocal opponents of the mill levy increase, those who did questioned funding issues and the number of services provided for the taxes collected. Chris Bieri/PCT

The commissioners pointed to the 4.81 increase in mills for human services as the biggest reason for the increase. Social services is now maxed out at 20 mills.

The county is scheduled to take on one new full-time social worker and a full-time eligibility worker in 2014, as well as three part-time in-home specialists.

There was also an increase of 4.18 mills for social security.

Aside from those two items, none of the mills requested went up more than .55 of a mill.

The largest decrease was for roads and bridges, a 7.31 decrease, due in large part to additional state funding.

Although for the most part, the crowd in attendance listened to the explanations, there were some vocal opponents of the mill increase.

Among the arguments were the possibility of cutting from other areas instead of raising mills. Others questioned where revenue from the jail and windmills in the northern part of the county came into funding the budget.

Commission chair Mike Christenson said most of the people just wanted to hear explanations of what was being funded and how it was funded.

“I think most of them understood it,” Christenson said. “Karin did a great job of explaining it.”

Christenson said that services need funding and he didn’t feel the county is unnecessarily taxing residents.

“Taxes are a part of life,” Christenson said. “If you want services, you have to pay taxes. If you want gravel on your road. I want a school, I have grandkids. Someone paid for my school. If my house starts on fire, I want a fire department.”

But some in attendance felt the services weren’t matching the taxes, including issues with snow removal.

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