Olympia City Council considers tax hikes

OLYMPIA - The Olympia City Council discussed a series of proposals to raise taxes to staff a new fire station and hire more police officers during a meeting Tuesday night, but they took no action.

“We can’t continue to do business as usual,” City Manager Steve Hall said. “Things need to change.”

The options the council is considering are:

 • Raising property taxes through a voter measure, which would require approval of 50 percent of voters plus one, perhaps as early as the Aug. 17 primary election. The current rate is $1.95 per $1,000 of assessed value.

 • Raising the business and occupation tax, which is set at 0.1 percent for all businesses except for services, which are taxed at 0.2 percent. The maximum is 0.2 percent.

 • Increasing the municipal utilities tax – which is now 10 percent on fees for solid waste and stormwater, 12 percent for water and, in 2011, 10 percent for sewer. Voter approval is not required.

 • Raising the tax on private utilities such as gas, electric and telephone. It’s now at 9 percent. Such a move would require 50 percent plus one voter approval.

Hall said he plans to hold a study session about the issue in the next three to four weeks.

Funding from taxes could staff a new fire station and put more police officers on the street. The city has no money identified for staffing its newest fire station, which is set to open in mid- to late 2011 at 3525 Stoll Road in northeast Olympia.

Fire Chief Larry Dibble said the city needs 13 positions for the new station, at a cost of about $1.4 million per year. He said that if he can’t get the staffing, he will move a crew from the downtown station.

Police Chief Gary Michel has said he’d like to have at least five more officers on the streets to match the number of officers he had 10 years ago. He said it would help with special patrols and crime prevention.

The council would need to adopt an ordinance and submit it to the Thurston County auditor by May 25 if it wants to put a property or private utility tax increase on the August primary ballot.

Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869