LONG BEACH — The city council on Monday approved a resolution increasing property tax rates by 1 percent for 2019. The increase will generate $11,900 more than 2017, ultimately resulting in the city’s 2019 levy being $625,800.
The city is authorized to increase the property tax levy by 1 percent each year. Under state law, the increase doesn’t count additional revenue resulting from new construction, improvements to property, newly constructed wind turbines, any increase in the value of state assessed property, and any annexations that have occurred and refunds made.
“It does add to our budget and make a big difference,” said City Administrator David Glasson.
The increase will bring the city up to the highest available levy amount. The city raises the property tax rate by 1 percent annually, Glasson said.
“It’s some of the very few monies we get to take into the general fund,” Mayor Jerry Phillips said.
The council held a public hearing before approving the resolution. As a point of information, Councilor Steven Linhart asked how much it costs the city to repave a single street. Glasson said the cost is $250,000.
The council held a public hearing on its preliminary 2019 budget, which will be adopted in December. The city is required to have a public hearing before adopting the budget.
Councilors started working on the budget last week. The council reviews the entire budget before approving it.
Some of the changes the council is considering include no longer hosting a Fourth of July fireworks display and raising utility taxes by 3 percent (about a $1 rate increase). Major projects the city is planning include a $250,000 renovation of the Bolstad Avenue restrooms, making Culbertson Park ADA accessible, and paving streets.
Phillips is also working to see if the city can get more revenue through sales tax. The city takes in more than $4 million in sales tax but gets to keep less than $600,000 of it, he said.
“I don’t want to raise any taxes because I’m on a fixed budget,” Phillips said. “Everyone is doing as much as possible to get more money.”
A major concern of residents in attendance for the hearing was the city’s agreement with the Long Beach Visitors Bureau. Phillips noted the city is terminating its current agreement with the bureau as an effort to create an updated agreement.
“Room rates are going up for events,” Phillips said. “We need events in Long Beach; we know that. But we need to find out what works best and work with everyone at the table.”
Multiple residents who work with the bureau emphasized the need for the city and the bureau to work together.
Susie Goldsmith, owner of the Boreas Bed and Breakfast Inn, disagreed with Phillips that lodging rates increase for events.
“That may be more the hotel chains,” Goldsmith said. “We don’t do that, we lower them.”
Goldsmith said occupancy was best in 2004. She noted the number of bed and breakfast locations was 13 when she first moved to Long Beach. However, the number now is around three and some locations aren’t full time, she said.
“I don’t see that across the board we have increases in lodging,” Goldsmith said. “I don’t want everyone to think that’s the state of the art in this town.”
City Council approved a $36,200 contract, hiring John Kliem of Creative Community Solutions. Kliem will complete the city’s 2020 comprehensive plan update.
The city’s last comprehensive plan update was published in 2008. The Washington State Department of Commerce requires the city to complete an update of the plan by June 2020.
Kliem will facilitate multiple public workshops with the community and city staff. Workshops will help the city determine its vision statements, goals and strategies.
Topics focused on will include community demographics, future population projections, housing affordability and options, commercial development, how people travel in the community, and distribution of future land uses.
The plan is scheduled to be adopted in Fall 2019. If Kliem works past the agreed-upon contract, he will charge the city $110 for every hour worked.
Kliem’s work started earlier this year through a workshop on the comprehensive plan.
“He’s done a great job,” Phillips said. “It’s one of those things that we have to get done.”
Kliem’s contract has been budgeted for in the city’s 2019 budget, which it will adopt in December.
The council authorized the mayor to purchase a vacuum trailer and accompanying equipment. The trailer will be purchased from Ditch Witch West, the only company which submitted a bid to the city in regard to the trailer.
The trailer and equipment will cost the city $58,295.12 to purchase. The city found a need for a vacuum trailer during the 2018 budget process, Glasson said.
Councilor Tina McGuire clarified whether the trailer is already budgeted for. Mayor Phillips said the trailer is budgeted for.
The council authorized Glasson to execute a loan agreement between the city and the Washington State Department of Ecology. The agreement is for the regional biosolids plant, a $7 million project.
The agreement is for financing the design and construction of the plant. The agreement is the paperwork needed for the city’s first reimbursement request, said Ariel Smith, the city’s director of community development.
The project’s cost includes a $276,000 forgivable principal, $1,832,892 centennial grant and $4,981,198 SRF loan at 1.9 percent interest for 20 years.
The plant is expected to be completed by January 2020. The project should go to bid this winter, Glasson said at the council’s Oct. 15 meeting.
The City of Long Beach will honor veterans on Dec. 15 through Wreaths Across America Day. The day, which will be recognized nationally, honored over 1.5 million veterans in 2017.
Through the program, volunteers place wreaths on veterans’ graves and at state capitols. The program’s mission is to remember the fallen, honor those who serve, and teach children the value of freedom.
The program started in 2007 as an expansion of the Worcester Wreaths program. Long Beach’s program began in 2013.
“The Wreaths Across America program in the City of Long Beach is an outstanding example of how we honor our veterans and the public honoring of the city’s veterans,” the proclamation states.
The Long Beach program was started by the Ocian In View Chapter and the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution. The program has since expanded to include Women of the Moose Chapter #1930, Peninsula Moose Lodge #2362, American Legion Post #48, Boy Scout Troop #4028, U.S. Coast Guard Station Cape Disappointment, Ocean Park Cemetery, Lone Fir Cemetery, Ilwaco Cemetery, the City of Long Beach, and others.
“Our citizens owe a deep debt of gratitude to all who served, are serving and will serve in our nation’s Armed Forces,” the proclamations states.
Karla Jensen, owner of the Mermaid Inn & RV Park, voiced concern about the area’s need for visitors and event coordination.
Jensen’s inn consistently operates below capacity, with her best month being 68 percent capacity in August, she said. The need for events in the city is continuous, Jensen said.
“If we lose the events, we will lose the revenue we make from them,” Jensen said.
Jeffrey Paul McMorrow, a retired lawyer from California, said he was concerned with how much money the city charges for water and sewer bills. He also suggested the city look into options to conserve energy with holiday lights, as he’s noticed them on during the day.
“I look forward to a very long and low-key life here,” McMorrow said.
Councilors Kevin Cline and Del Murry weren’t present at the meeting.
Long Beach City Council meets next at 7 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 3 in City Hall.