PASCO - Pasco City Council will initiate negotiations for a planned annexation of a two-mile chunk of county land swallowed by city boundaries and consider whether to ask voters to support a criminal justice sales tax.
The council approved asking Franklin County and Franklin Fire District 3 to discuss creating a long-term plan to annex the so-called "doughnut hole," which includes about 4,000 people, in a 4-3 vote during a special meeting.
The state Legislature approved the process two years ago as an alternative to having city councils annex land by approving an ordinance when property owners of 60 percent of the assessed value in the area have signed annexation agreements. Pasco City Manager Gary Crutchfield said the city can already annex two portions of the doughnut hole using the older process.
Franklin Fire District 3 commissioners sent a letter to the city stating that they felt it was in the best interest of citizens and the district to consider the agreement.
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Long-term planning for how and when annexation should be done is what good government does, said Councilwoman Rebecca Francik.
The city property tax rate is about 85 cents less than the county rate, Crutchfield said. City residents pay about $13.01 per $1,000 of assessed value, while county residents pay nearly $13.86. Annexed properties would not pay bond debt that was approved by voters prior to them becoming a part of the city.
There will be an increase in utility taxes, but Crutchfield said typical properties would see a net savings.
Councilmen Bob Hoffmann and Al Yenney, who voted against initiating negotiations, said they wanted to wait to take up the annexation discussion after the council had determined what to do about the Pasco School District's request for school impact fees.
But Crutchfield said he expects the impact fee discussion won't be over this year.
If annexations are going to happen, it's best for that to occur during the first two months of the year because it takes a year for the property tax changeover, Crutchfield said.
And the district and the county have 45 days to respond to the city's request, he said.
Councilman Tom Larsen, who also voted against the proposal, said he wanted to hold a public hearing first.
Yenney questioned if the city's Road 68 fire station would be able to handle the doughnut hole area.
The Pasco Fire Department already handles the ambulance calls in Franklin Fire District 3's area by contract, said Pasco Fire Chief Bob Gear. Ambulance calls make up about 80 percent of the department's service calls.
Councilman Mike Garrison said the council was getting ahead of itself by debating the details of annexation. The council needed to start the actual process first, he said.
-- Crutchfield asked the council to consider what projects the city would fund if voters approve the 0.3 percent criminal justice sales tax proposal.
Franklin County commissioners approved putting the proposal on the Nov. 8 ballot to pay for a remodeled and expanded county jail officials say is badly needed. The change would last 30 years.
If approved, the county would receive 60 percent and the rest would be divided among the cities according to population. Pasco would receive more than $1 million per year, Crutchfield said.
That would be enough to pay for a 20-year, $14 million bond, he said. And that would pay for both space for Pasco Municipal Court in the expanded jail project and a police station. He suggested the council also add public safety projects to the list. That would give the city flexibility to use any extra for other projects, such as those related to fire and ambulance service.
The council will vote on a project list next Monday and set a public hearing to consider whether the city should ask voters to support the sales tax measure.