Camas OKs 1 percent property tax increases

Revenues will help maintain city services; cost average homeowner extra $14 in ’22

Camas officials this week approved 1-percent property tax increases to help fund the city’s general fund and emergency medical services (EMS).

For the homeowner of a $641,000 house — the average cost of a home in Camas — the 1-percent property tax increases approved by Camas officials on Monday, Nov. 15, will cost an additional $14.07 in 2022 ($13.94 for the general fund levy and 13 cents for the EMS levy).

The increase will bring an additional $137,227 into the city’s general fund and $23,574 into the city’s EMS fund.

According to Camas Finance Director Cathy Huber Nickerson, property taxes are the city’s primary revenue source for funding core services such as fire, police, streets and public works, as well as the city’s emergency medical services.

Like other Washington cities confined to raising property taxes by no more than 1 percent annually, Camas faces a structural deficit, with the city’s expenses — including labor contracts that will increase most employees’ salaries by more than 4 percent in 2022 — costing more than the city can bring in through property taxes alone.

At the city council’s Oct. 18 workshop, Huber Nickerson presented data on the 1-percent property tax levy increases and said 22 percent of Camas property tax bills go to the city for its services.

Of the property tax money coming into the city’s general fund, the largest chunk (26 percent) pays for police, while another 25 percent goes toward fire and EMS costs. The remainder pays for the city’s streets (11%), parks and recreation (10%), public works (9%), community development (8%), library (8%), court (2%) and cemetery (1%).

Camas City Council members split their votes on Monday, voting 4-2 in favor of the general fund levy increase, with council members Don Chaney and Shannon Roberts voting “no,” and 5-1 in favor of the EMS levy increase, with Roberts casting the lone “no” vote against the 1-percent increase that will cost the average homeowner an additional 11 cents next year.

Roberts said she thought the 1-percent property tax increases allowed by state law — even in light of the 3.86 percent Implicit Price Deflator, which measures the changes in the price for all goods and services in an economy year to year — would be too much for Camas homeowners.

“I voiced the same thing last year,” Roberts said of her opposition to annual tax increase. “Even though it’s $13.94, by the time the county adds on to that, it ends up being quite a bit of money.”

Councilmembers Bonnie Carter and Greg Anderson disagreed and pointed out that the city’s annual property tax increase is the way Camas pays for the services residents expect.

“I agree that, right now, many homeowners are feeling the pinch, but we as a city are providing services to all homeowners,” Carter said. “There’s a 5-percent inflation rate for services and fees and cost of supplies … and 1 percent is an additional $137,227 — enough to have another firefighter on duty. We’re growing and I just don’t want to lose sight of the services, and level of services, we are providing our citizens when we debate this issue.”

Anderson said he has heard many residents call for the city to spend more money on parks and trails and “all of those services need resources.”

“Unfortunately, property taxes are a good chunk of those resources,” Anderson said Monday. “I personally cannot cut services to our community at this point in time, so I’m in favor of the 1-percent (increase) at this time.”