Camas OKs 1% tax levy increase

Average homeowner will not see substantial increase in city tax bill

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Camas City Council members Monday night unanimously agreed to raise the amount of money the city can levy from property taxes by 1 percent, the maximum annual increase allowed by state law.

The 1-percent increase will bring an additional $124,554 to the city in 2020. Combined with nearly $439,000 in taxes from new construction, that means the city’s tax levy in 2020 will bring in $13,018,961 compared to $12,455,418 in 2019.

The average Camas homeowner, however, will only see a slight difference in their individual tax bills. In a Nov. 4 presentation to the city council, Camas Finance Director Cathy Huber Nickerson showed the impacts of the 1-percent increase on the owner of a $476,300 house — the median home price in Camas.

Although the average Camas homeowner will see a $27 decrease in city taxes in 2020, the 1-percent increase will cost the average homeowner in Camas between $12 (in 2021) and $14.40 (in 2025) more per year than if the council had voted to not increase the tax levy amount by the allowed 1 percent.

The Council opened the subject to a public hearing Monday night, but had no public comment and no discussion amongst the councilors before voting 7-0 to increase the amount of property tax levy money by 1 percent.

The increase includes the city’s three property tax levies: the general levy; the EMS levy, which was started in 2019 and has five years remaining; and the Debt Service Levy for Library Bonds, which expires in 2020.

City councilors discussed the 1-percent increase at their Nov. 4 workshop.

“I generally don’t like to increase costs, but if we look at (the fact that) 1 percent doesn’t even keep up with inflation and has such minor effects on the average citizen if we don’t, I think we’re doing a disservice to all citizens (if we don’t pass the 1-percent increase),” said Councilwoman Deanna Rusch on Nov. 4. “If we don’t do it, I think we’re going to be moving pieces around even more.”

Councilwoman Bonnie Carter agreed with Rusch, and Councilwoman Ellen Burton said she saw the increase as a means of ensuring the city’s stability in the future.

“When we look at this from a long-term view … we know we’ll have inflation, we know we have terms in contracts and salaries, and we have big capital projects and know those construction costs are projected to rise,” Burton said on Nov. 4. “We’re making sure we’re setting up the city to continue to be a productive city.”

Burton added that she wanted to see the city continue to adequately fund public safety and to not have to go into “stop-gap” measures to fully fund city services. Voting for the allowed 1-percent increase would help avoid that, she said.

Councilman Greg Anderson added that he also approved of the increase.

“Our costs will continue to go up,” Anderson said on Nov. 4.

Councilman Steve Hogan agreed.

“One percent is not outrageous,” Hogan said on Nov. 4. “We’re going to end up defending whatever we do (because) the perception is that we’re knocking taxes up constantly.”

Hogan added that the city would be able to save money for taxpayers in the long-run, if the economy shifted.

“We’ve had a long run of post-recession good times,” Hogan said. “This would put us in a position to improve our ratings on bonds. When things go south in the economy, municipal bonds are more attractive, so we’ll be able to save money for taxpayers.”