Council approves new utility tax while having record cash in bank
On Monday evening, the Camas city council considered two taxes on its citizens, as proposed by Mayor Steve Hogan in his budget. One was a new 2 percent utility tax. The other was the 1 percent increase in property taxes allowed by law.
A host of citizens showed up speaking in opposition, including several senior citizens on fixed incomes. Of note was former Councilor Helen Gerde saying they could save $1.5 million simply by cutting lower priority spending, as identified by staff. She also asked “why would Washougal citizens vote to raise their taxes if Camas continues to foot the bill” for our joint fire department?
Gerde was referencing the fact that for the past few years, Camas has added new fire positions that Washougal could not afford to pay their 40 percent share of the costs. Therefore Camas taxpayers have picked up the Washougal portion of the newly hired fire/EMS positions. In the budget, the Mayor wants to hire another 13 fire/EMS positions, in spite of the reality that Washougal can’t afford their full share of what we already have on staff.
Former councilor Shannon Roberts also asked the council to hit the pause button, expressing concerns for seniors on fixed incomes especially. One citizen shared she had eliminated her home phone and cable tv as a means of stretching her finances. Another citizen mentioned all the consultants the city is spending money on.
The big picture is that Camas has $101.2 million cash and cash equivalents in the bank. That’s enough money to run the city for seven months without them receiving any taxes.