Potential New Property Tax Increases in Olympia

Emmanuel Son, Staff Writer

Olympia’s program manager, Pamela Braff, has come up with some options for what she believes will generate more funding to combat climate change. According to the Olympian, Braff has come up with the idea of raising property taxes, but before this can happen, it must be approved by voters. Braff spoke to the Olympia Finance Committee while giving an update on the city’s climate funding. Staff were assigned to research options for a dedicated revenue stream to achieve the city’s climate goals.  The Olympian states that some of these options included increasing property taxes, and private utility or municipal utility tax rates. 

The city could increase property taxes; however, it would need to win the favor of voters. Braff says that an increase in property tax would create a “consistent and predictable source of funding, and it could be imposed for a specific amount of time.” The amount of increase has not yet been stated. It is possible that the amount that gets collected and charged could fluctuate, especially as property values are set to change. City manager Jay Burney says that a key lid lift may be needed in the future if voters allow this to happen. 

From a study based on 2022 property assessments, if rates were to be increased by $0.01 per $1,000 of assessed value, it would generate $117,000 a year dedicated to tackling climate change. If this were to be raised to $0.10, the city would collect $1.7 million a year. If the city aimed for a $0.20 per $1,000 increase, about $2.34 million could be raised annually. 

Braff says that the property tax increases costs for property owners but argues that it is the least regressive model in burdening low-income households. She argues that increased property values correlate with a higher ability to pay. 

Another suggestion currently being brought up is the increase of sales tax. The city, however, does not have the authority to implement this as the maximum on imposing unrestricted sales tax is the state’s current 6.5% sales tax. If this were to happen, the state would need to authorize increases to the city’s sales tax for dedicated purposes. The downside to this is that sales taxes are imposed, meaning there would not be much flexibility. This plan would generate revenue from out-of-town visitors, although Braff argues that tax burdens would fall the hardest on low-income households. A 1% sales tax increase would generate about $2.2 million a year.

Another idea in mind is the Private Utility Tax. The city has the authority to increase taxes locally. This would increase rates on electricity, gas, and telephones. This would have to be approved by voters. Braff mentions that the increase in the rate of utilities could persuade contractors and developers to move towards electrifying their buildings to save money. A 1% increase with the 9% tax rate currently on electricity would generate $590,000 a year. Gas would be about $166,000 a year, and telephone rates generate $216,000. 

The last option given to the city manager is the municipal utility tax. The city has the authority to raise municipal utility tax rates, with no established upper legal limit for what can be changed. The current tax rate is about 12.5% for garbage, sewer, stormwater, and water. A 1% tax increase on garbage would generate about $137,000, with sewer generating about $202,000, stormwater generating about $62,000, and water about $140,000. This option, however, is one of the larger burdens on low-income residents. 

The city’s Finance Committee has stated other options, including excise tax. This would affect business owners and developers. It was also suggested that the city could modify fees to generate more money each year. Braff states that the staff is creating a budget and maintenance plan to give the city council a  better idea of what they think the city needs. This will be done in August. 

Braff says that it is difficult to estimate future needs. She states that it is complicated modeling future emissions and achieving the reduction goal. She argues that it is easier to know what vehicle miles travel need to be reduced and how many buildings need to be retrofitted. 

This issue has drawn a reaction from City Council members. Jim Cooper, who sits on the committee, states that this is not the first time the committee has discussed needing money for its climate goals. The numbers have never been easy to look at, he said. Cooper mentions that he needs a better picture of where the money should be coming from. 

Lisa Parshley, also on the finance committee, argues that the city doesn’t need to ask the legislature for permission to change local taxes and should be pushing legislators to put more funding into battling climate change. “I think there is a role for a jurisdiction like ours to keep doing the work locally, because sometimes we can encourage the state to do the right thing as well,” Parshley says. 

Crime Rates in Olympia and how to keep Yourself Safe

Ailina Cunningham, Staff Writer

Typically, Olympia is known as one of the safer places to live and work. As a close-knit community and small-town, it tends to make the news, and everyone knows about it whenever something happens. However, even in a safe community such as Olympia, it is always essential to keep your eyes and ears aware of any possible crimes that can happen to keep yourself and your friends and family safe. Some of the most important things to look out for are auto thefts and personal thefts. These are very common things to see in every community, and Olympia and Thurston County are no exception. Check out your local crime statistics in terms of which types of crime you should be watching out for the most at city-data.com. This is a website that can show you which crimes are statistically on the rise and which crimes are decreasing in occurrence frequency.

The best way to avoid common crimes like theft or car theft is always to be aware of your surroundings and constantly be taking precautionary measures to ensure your safety. These measures can include things like keeping your keys in your hands as you walk to your car or locking your doors as soon as you get into your vehicle, which does not allow anyone to get in the car with you without your knowledge. Options such as hiding your valuables in safe areas and keeping your phone on you and fully charged in case you need it to make a call. In case of a theft, it is always helpful to include lots of details as to what was stolen and where you were, and when it took place so that the police can assist you to the best of their ability. Remember to park in well-lit areas and close your windows to prevent anyone from being able to reach inside your car.

Using these basic safety tips can help prevent you from being subject to car theft or personal theft as well as ensure your safety in the future as you encounter new and exciting places. According to cityrating.com, the projected data for robbery and theft in Olympia, Washington, is 1,470 occurrences per one hundred thousand residents. This means that theft and larceny is one of the biggest issues that Olympia, Washington, faces. Taking precautionary measures to ensure your safety and the safety of those around you can be helpful to you. Additionally, as the holidays come closer, it’s always important to keep in mind that Amazon packages can quickly disappear due to porch thieves. To prevent this, it is helpful to keep watch of the packages you are anticipating and track them to understand when they arrive. When they do arrive, you can bring them into your place of residence as quickly as possible, and if you see any suspicious packages that you have not ordered, do not open them. If you are concerned, you can contact the authorities. With these helpful tips and tricks this coming holiday season, everyone should enjoy the super fun holiday experience without the problems of being victimized by theft and burglary. Only by following these helpful tricks can you keep yourself safe as well as the people you love around you.