Mayor Mary Jane Goss acts to veto City property tax levy ordinance

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

From the office of Mayor Mary Jane Goss

Mayor Mary Jane Goss acted late Tuesday to veto the City Property Tax Levy Ordinance passed Monday by the Lake Forest Park City Council, because it increased the City’s property tax levy by double the increase she requested in the budget and during a time when many families are struggling financially.

Mayor Goss had proposed a budget for 2013-2014 that assumed a 1 percent increase in the City’s regular tax levy.  The Council, on a 4-3 vote, instead adopted a property tax levy ordinance that increased the levy by just over 2 percent: the maximum allowed the City under state law without a vote of the people. This additional amount of the levy was available to the City because the previous two years it had not taken the full amount of property tax increase allowed. This additional amount is commonly known as “banked” property tax capacity.

“As Mayor, there is a necessary partnership between the legislative and executive bodies of government to ensure the best interests of the public are protected,” said Mayor Goss.  “As the Mayor presented a balanced budget not using the banked capacity and because we are a public agency, we need to be clear about what we are doing with the public’s money.”

During the budget hearing at Monday’s meeting, Lake Forest Park residents spoke in almost equal numbers for and against increasing the property tax levy. About half of those who spoke urged the City Council to maintain the 2012 property tax levy amount and half urged the Council to increase the levy by the legal maximum.

Mayor Goss said she believed that more was needed to be done to heal rifts in the community in the wake of a failed 2010 vote on Proposition 1, a multi-year property tax increase to fund City operations that failed with nearly 80 percent  voting against the measure.

“It was a difficult decision for me to propose a budget with the 1 percent property tax increase, but I did so in the interest of stability and to begin to help our community heal,” she said. “It was clear to me from the public testimony that there is an almost equal division for and against added taxation. Clearly we can meet in the middle. Therefore it is my belief that it is in the best interest of the public that I veto this ordinance”

Under state law and City code, the Council must reconsider the ordinance and may only override the Mayor’s veto with an affirmative vote of at least five members of the seven-member Council.  Mayor Goss urged the City Council to vote on reconsideration by December 6 or at a special meeting called for this purpose.

The City Council had chosen the prior two years to not increase the property tax levy. The City finance department had budgeted for approximately $2,819,000 in local property tax in 2012. The Mayor’s proposal would have generated an additional  1 percent or $28,195 in 2013 on properties in the City existing at the beginning of 2012. The Council vote Monday to appropriate the banked capacity would generate approximately $30,000 more than the Mayor’s proposal.


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