Aberdeen and Hoquiam voters will get to weigh in on potential tax increases soon as the Grays Harbor Auditor’s Office reports that more than 11,800 ballots were slated to go into the mail today.
Aberdeen voters are considering a sales tax increase that would be collected for six years, with the money used to fix city streets.
Hoquiam voters are voting on a property tax increase that would be collected for 20 years to acquire a new ladder truck for the fire department.
Voters have until Feb. 12 to mail their ballots in. Or, save a stamp and drop ballots off at either the Auditor’s Office in Montesano or at the drive-up ballot box at the Grays Harbor YMCA in Hoquiam.
Aberdeen is voting on a sales tax increase of 0.13 percent with the hope of generating between $500,000 and $600,000 annually. All of Grays Harbor has an 8.4 percent sales tax rate, and the proposal would bring the rate within the city to 8.53 percent. Aberdeen would be the highest on the Harbor, although still less than the 8.7 percent rate in the Olympia area.
The tax hike specifically would go to road improvements and would go away six years after implementation.
In Hoquiam, voters are being asked to raise their property taxes to pay for a 100-foot platform ladder truck for the city’s fire department. The city wants to take out a 20-year general bond valued at $1.2 million to pay for the truck. The city has said the cost would be an increase of 19 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value for Hoquiam property owners.
The city’s 1979 ladder truck broke down more than a year ago and was sold as surplus.
A similar bond proposal in May 2011 fell just short of the required 60 percent voter approval margin.
Fans of the fire department have been putting up signs around the city urging passage of the tax measure. Hoquiam Mayor Jack Durney said a special citizens committee, consisting of those in the fire union and individual council members, led by Hoquiam Councilman Paul McMillan, have spearheaded the campaign.
“We have repeated examples of why the ladder truck is needed,” Durney said. “We just had a fire on Maple Street three months ago where a ladder truck would have come in handy and really helped out. And, yes, Aberdeen has a fire truck, but it was out of service last fall for whatever reason, which meant both cities were dependent on Montesano and Ocean Shores for assistance.”
In Aberdeen, the campaign picture is a bit different. Although city officials have generally discussed their support of the measure, to date, there hasn’t been a visible campaign to encourage residents to support the measure.
Aberdeen Mayor Bill Simpson says by state law the city can’t spend public resources on anything urging support of the tax proposal. However, the city is able to write up a fact sheet with basic facts about the proposal. Simpson said that’s been done, although there’s still some debate about how to distribute the paper. Several council members are also working on columns or letters to the editor to submit to The Daily World and are planning to meet with local radio stations about news coverage. Simpson said a private homeowner has also talked about working on some signs to put along the highway in downtown Aberdeen.
“I’m getting tired of the streets being the way they are and I’m tired of people calling me to complain about their streets,” Simpson said. “As a private individual, I plan to vote for the increase. I’m hoping that people will see the benefits to raise the taxes and realize it doesn’t just impact them, but everyone who drives through town and shops here. If you purchased a $100 item, it would cost just an additional 13 cents.”