For Immediate Release
April 9, 2012
Contact: Commissioner Kelly Emerson
(360-679-7354 and 360-544-2958 cell.)
Coupeville, Camano Island – Island County Commissioner Kelly Emerson today proposed a groundbreaking new Island County Ordinance requiring voter advisory ballots on new taxes and fees in Island County. The proposal would make voter advisory ballots mandatory on all new proposals for taxes and fees. The voter advisories would be added to regularly held election ballots.
“It’s past time our communities had a greater say in what their local government does,” Emerson said. “This ordinance would mean that if we County Commissioners decided we wanted to increase our revenue with new taxes and fees, it would be our job to get out there and convince voters that it is necessary. I think that’s only fair. And, I do realize that special interest groups have a lot of influence these days. It’s time for ordinary taxpayers to have a place at the table, too.”
Emerson unveiled the proposed ordinance at a regularly scheduled Island County Commission meeting at the Coupeville Courthouse Monday. Emerson is the sole Republican on the three-person Commission. She said new taxes and fees are particularly hard on the nearly 50 percent of Island County residents who are seniors, many of whom are low income. “We just can’t keep asking people who are struggling to pay more from their ever thinner wallets,” she said.
The ordinance would ask the Island County Auditor to handle the advisory ballots to make certain they appear on regularly scheduled ballots.
The ordinance allows only for advisory ballots because Island County is a non-charter county.
Emerson’s proposal comes after the Island County Commission approved the controversial creation of a Clean Water Utility in the waning days of 2010. Emerson took office in January, 2011. That Commission action, which came at the behest of environmental groups, followed the Commission’s unsuccessful effort to increase its allowable property tax levy in the fall of 2010. That request, which by law required voter approval, was defeated by large margins. The Commission did not seek voter approval for the new Utility, which levies a special property tax – called a Utility Fee – on all property parcels in the county. During her successful campaign for the County Commission, Emerson opposed creation of the new utility because of the new utility fees, which are imposed even on low income residents.