Pasco is considering asking its residents for its first 1 percent property tax rate increase in 15 years to help it pay for the growth it has seen in that time.
The state-maximum increase would bring Pasco to $1.95 per $1,000 assessed evaluation from the current $1.94.
Pasco City Manager Dave Zabell said Kennewick is considering increasing its rate to $2.18 and Richland is planning a rate of $2.61 because it will forgo the increase.
“A $200,000 house — we’re talking $2 per year,” Zabell told the city council this week.
The increase would add about $65,000 to the city’s budget, Zabell said.
“The 1 percent doesn’t solve any real problems, but it keeps us from falling 1 percent further behind,” he said.
Pasco is now projected to take in just more than $7 million in property taxes, according to its proposed budget.
The city is looking to add 11 1/2 full-time equivalent positions, including four firefighters.
One of the new firefighters would serve on engines during fires, freeing up fire battalion chiefs to act as commanders during an emergency. Deputy City Manager Stan Strebel said battalion chiefs will be better able to manage a scene in a pickup or sport utility vehicle, instead of riding in the engine. The change would address a concern cited in the department’s preliminary review from the Washington Survey and Rating Board.
The other three firefighters are needed to meet new state administrative code for the aircraft response vehicle at Tri-Cities Airport, Fire Chief Bob Gear said. The three new people would allow the department to have three firefighters on the truck at all times. The Port of Pasco, which owns the airport, is expected to pay for those three firefighters.
A new groundsman will be needed in the facilities division, said Rick Terway, Pasco’s administrative and community services director. Each of the city’s groundsmen is expected to be able to check 1,500 sprinklers each week, but they must now take care of 4,500. Two workers on the west side of town are responsible for checking more than 8,000 sprinklers a week.
“It’s just becoming impossible to check all of them on a regular basis,” he said.
The public works department is looking to add five-and-a-half new positions — a heavy equipment operator for the water reuse facility, a street sweeper, a water plant worker, a sewer plant operator, an irrigation utility worker and an electrician.
The city has been contracting for the electrician, Strebel said.
“Sometimes it’s hard to get folks lined up and responsive to our needs,” he said.
The police department is also looking to reclassify a position as an administrative captain, restoring a job that’s been unfilled since 2013. That would give the department three captain positions.
Mayor Matt Watkins plans to ask more questions about the need for the firefighters to staff the airport, he told the Herald. He wants to make sure they are needed, since administrative code is not the same as a law.
Staff is also asking the council to pass an 8-percent sewer rate increase, adding $1.98 to a monthly bill. The city’s stormwater fee would increase by 45 cents to $4.95 and the monthly ambulance fee would rise by 75 cents to $8.50.
The city will have a total budget of $160.3 million, up from $143.7 million this year. Strebel said the number can be misleading since it counts some money as being spent twice when it goes between departments.
The general fund budget, which includes most city services like police and parks, will increase to $51.1 million from $44.5 million this year. The increase is primarily due to an $8 million bond issued to pay for a new police station near City Hall. That will be repaid using the three-tenths of a percent public safety sales tax.
The budget is a good one, particularly considering it is the first Zabell put together since taking over as city manager in August, Watkins said.
“Having a new city manager brings a new style to it,” he said. “As in previous years, you need a good, solid budget.”