Utility taxes will be the focus of upcoming open house

Informational session will be held Nov. 10

Camas citizens will have the opportunity to learn more about a series of proposed new utility taxes during an upcoming open house.

The event will be held Thursday, Nov. 10, at 6 p.m., at the Camas Public Library, 625 N.E. Fourth Ave. Attendees will be able to gather information and ask questions.

City officials are currently proposing a 3 percent tax on storm water and solid waste services, and 1 percent on cable and telephone services. If approved, the taxes would generate approximately $264,000 for the city annually.

To ease the burden on taxpayers in 2017 and offset the proposed utility taxes, the City Council would first increase by 1 percent its annual property tax levy, generating approximately $110,000. Then the property tax rate would be lowered by $264,000 — from $3.19 per $1,000 of assessed property value to $3.12.

According to Camas Finance Director Cathy Huber Nickerson, the City Council would then vote to bank this $264,000 of taxing capacity for a future tax year. The banked capacity would continue to grow by 1 percent annually, acting as a savings account for the future. The City Council could use any or all by voting to increase property taxes in the future.

According to the proposal, in 2018 the city would increase its property tax rate by 1 percent again, but leave the utility taxes at the 2017 levels.

“I think people will be surprised how small this [tax impact] really is,” Huber Nickerson said, adding that a 1 percent tax on most cable bills would amount to about $10 per year.

City officials have explained that the intent of the taxes is to create a more stable funding source for the municipality. Currently, 64 percent of the Camas government’s revenue comes from property taxes, while 36 percent is gleaned from sales tax.

Camas and La Center are the only cities in Clark County that do not currently collect utility taxes.

The city’s original proposal presented in October included implementing 1 percent taxes on cable television, natural gas, telephone, storm water and solid waste services. That combination would have produced $278,000 per year.

However, Huber Nickerson said after discussions with representatives from industrial businesses, a decision was made to change the distribution.

“The city’s goal was to make this as neutral as possible for all the city’s utility customers with the revenue offset,” she said. “Our goal is not to generate additional revenue, but to diversify the revenue base.”

On Monday, Nov. 21, at 7 p.m., there will be a public hearing on the proposed utility taxes and then a vote by the City Council on whether they should be implemented.