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Bellevue City Council Passes Property Tax, Development Fee Hike

The increases are part of how the council addresses a $6.5 million deficit in the two-year general fund budget. The city also plans to cut 17 positions cut in 2012 to bridge that deficit.

Councilmembers on Monday approved a 2012 property tax levy that raises the total amount collected from Bellevue property owners by 1.1 percent, according to a city of Bellevue press release. The council also approved increases for development-related services such as inspections and reviews.

The two unanimous votes were part of the city’s 2011-2012 mid-biennium budget review. The council is grappling with how to close a $6.5 million deficit in the two-year general fund budget.

While most of the $6.5 million general fund budget gap will be closed through proposed spending cuts, including the elimination of  17 full-time equivalent positions, a shortfall of about $2.7 million still needs to be addressed, according to the city of Bellevue.

Adoption of the mid-biennium budget is expected at the .

Bellevue’s 2012 regular property tax levy as approved Monday calls for collecting $32.95 million, up slightly over 2011 due to new construction and refunds, according to the . Another $4 million for a parks and natural areas levy passed by voters in 2008, brings the total to $37 million in 2012.

That means the total property tax rate will be $1.19 per $1,000 of assessed value in 2012, one of the lowest rates among cities in the area, compared to $1.14 per $1,000 of assessed value in 2011. The total assessed value for all properties in Bellevue is set at $31 billion in 2012, down from $32.1 billion in 2011.

The owner of an average Bellevue home, with an estimated value of $546,000, will pay a total of $650 in property taxes to the city, in addition to taxes paid to Washington state, and other taxing districts, which would be an increase of about $28 for a homeowner whose assessment stayed the same.

Development fee increases

The city council also unanimously approved Monday an approximately 5 percent increase in hourly fees charged by the Development Services Department in 2012 for permit reviews and inspections in functions such as land use, transportation, fire and utilities, according to a city of Bellevue press release. Increases of 1 to 5 percent, depending on the function, would be added in 2013. The fee adjustments are the first since 2009.

Development Services have been especially impacted by the economic downturn. Last year, the department eliminated 26 positions to lower costs by $2.8 million; in 2012, an additional 15 positions will be cut to save $1.4 million.

Councilmembers decided to postpone approval of the mid-biennium budget update as they consider proposals to increase revenue and cut spending, including additional layoffs or employee concessions.

Mayor Don Davidson asked whether unions representing employees in the city’s Police and Fire departments would consider accepting a lower cost-of-living adjustment than next year’s 3.7 percent increase called for in labor contracts. A lower COLA could save up to $1.6 million among all city employees, union and non-union workers.

“We’ve been tearing our hair out about what to do about this,” Davidson said. “It’s possible we’d like to ask for some concessions. I’m doing it publicly because we’re getting down to the wire of being able to do the mid-biennium budget.”

On the revenue side, councilmembers are considering implementation of an emergency medical services fee for transporting “basic life support” patients to hospitals. The recommendation is for a transport fee of $600, plus $14 per mile, for patients with less serious ailments, comparable to other cities and fire departments in King County.

The new fees would generate an estimated $1.1 million in additional revenue annually for the city’s general fund. However, some councilmembers have expressed concern about possible impacts to residents.

The information on the budget, and video of the City Council's discussion, is available on the city of Bellevue's City Council Agenda website, listed under the Dec. 5 study session and regular session.

-- Information from the City of Bellevue, edited by Bellevue Patch

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