Tax patch sought for worn Pacific county assets

Frank Wolfe

SOUTH BEND — Voters in parts of Pacific County will decide whether to approve three measures to increase taxes in Tuesday’s general election.

People in unincorporated areas, the city of Long Beach and the North Pacific Emergency Services District are facing tax hikes on the Nov. 7 ballot.

The County Commission is asking voters to agree to raise the tax that is collected when real estate is sold outside city limits by one-quarter of 1 percent.

It is not an increase of annual property taxes. The 0.25 percent hike would affect real-estate sales in the county’s unincorporated areas.

The amount the seller, or in some cases the buyer, would pay depends on the value of the real estate. If approved, the tax would increase by about $500 on property sold for $200,000.

The money would help pay for building construction, repairs and maintenance.

“It doesn’t pay to put stuff like this off, “ Commissioner Frank Wolfe said. “No one likes to pay taxes.”

If approved, Wolfe said, the tax increase from 1.53 percent to 1.78 percent in 2018 is expected to double county’s revenue from property sales to about $600,000 a year. It would alleviate pressure on the troubled budget by helping with hefty expenses, such as annual payments of about $315,000 for the administrative building in Long Beach.

“We’re asking the people to help by voting this in,” Wolfe said.

The county spent half a million dollars from reserves to cover regular, general fund expenses in 2016. Officials expect to have to take another $400,000 to cover costs this year.

If the county doesn’t stop overspending, most, if not all, the cash in the coffers for doing day-to-day business is likely to be gone by the 2018 or 2019, according to Financial Analyst Paul Plakinger.

The commissioners overstepped their authority when they raised the real estate tax in 2015 without voter approval, a requirement under state law. The county then had to refund about $700,000 it wrongly collected from 1,400 sales in 2015 and 2016.

Voters in Long Beach will have to decide whether to approve a sales-tax increase of up to two-tenths of 1 percent to help the city pay for road improvements and transportation projects.

City Administrator David Glasson said the 0.2 percent sales-tax hike, roughly 2 cents for a $10 purchase, would bring in about $100,000 annually for the next 10 years.

If approved, the cost of maintaining city streets would be shared by residents and visitors. It would not apply to the cost of groceries, prescriptions, gas, rent or mortgages.

The North Pacific Emergency Medical Service District 1 wants voters to approve a tax levy of 60 cents per $1,000 assessed property value. It would take effect in 2018, after the current levy expires. The district could then collect up to $460,000 from property owners in the county, except those in the Ocean Beach, Ocosta or North River school districts.

There are also three statewide tax advisory measures on the ballot. However, those votes have no bearing other than to provide advice to the Legislature.

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