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Posted on: July 3, 2018

Commissioners' Corner (Issue 176)

Tim McClain

Many of you will remember a radio program that ran for many years called “The Rest of the Story”. The program, hosted by Paul Harvey, presented stories with important details revealed only at the end.  With this edition of the Commissioner’s Corner, it is my hope to give you a little bit of the “rest of the story” concerning the District’s challenge to the excise tax that the City of Federal Way is attempting to impose on the District and its ratepayers.  

This past February, City of Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell asked District representative to meet with him at City Hall.  During that meeting, the Mayor informed us that he would be taking a proposal to the City Council for a 7.75% tax on the revenues we received from providing water and sewer service within the City of Federal Way.  The reason for this, he explained, was that the city needed extra revenue of about $900,000 a year to balance the City budget.

Our reaction was that we should consider other options before the City made any final decision to pursue a tax (which we indicated the Board might determine to challenge).  One option mentioned was for the District to purchase the City’s one-half interest in the French Lake Dog Park.  This seemed like it would be a good opportunity for the City to bridge the short-term budget problem while other solution to the City’s financial problems could be explored.  The circumstance arises because the District has plans in the longer term to use our half of the Park property for water supply purposes, including recharge of aquifers, and would benefit from owning the entire parcel.  Under current planning, the District would not need the Park for ten or fifteen years at the earliest, allowing the property to continue being used as a doge park in the interim. 

We saw this as a win-win opportunity.  We also indicated that we would be willing to discuss other possible solutions to the City’s revenue problems that could make sense for the District and the City.  The Mayor rejected the offer to consider selling the Park as part of a near-term solution to the budget problem and informed us that the matter of discussing other options was closed for further consideration.

Let me say that I appreciate the consideration the Mayor showed by letting us know ahead of time what his plans were.  I remain extremely frustrated, however, that we were not able to discuss possible solution that may have avoided the City’s move to attempt to impose the tax.  I believe that reasonable options exist that could have produced a mutually beneficial solution that would have prevented this dispute.

The Board of Commissioner’s voted to challenge the legality of the tax, as well as a 6% tax the City of Edgewood seeks to impose on our revenues from water and sewer service within Edgewood.  It will likely take a number of years for this to be sorted out.  That, as Paul Harvey would say, is the rest of the story.



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