Between the Bridges: Kennewick council says taxpayers getting a lot for their money

Kennewick councilmen want the city to make more clear what a bargain you are getting for your tax dollars.

An average family pays about $1,986 a year in taxes and fees to the city, which adds up to $166 a month, Finance Director Dan LeGard said during a recent meeting. Of that, $64 goes to police, $25 to fire protection, $20 to solid waste and $19 to sewer service.

Councilman Bob Olson, who lost his recent bid for an eighth four-year term, questioned what the city needs to do to get the message out that residents are getting a good deal.

“We have a terrific disconnect out there with our citizens,” he said. “I just don’t know how you reach ’em.”

Particularly low is the $435 a year residents pay in Kennewick property taxes, or $36.25 a month, Councilman Bob Parks said.

“Most people pay more than that for HBO and Showtime in a month,” he said.

Kennewick is proposing a levy rate of $2.15 per thousand dollars of assessed property values, which is down from $2.17 this year. That ranks higher than Pasco, but lower than Richland.

“I look at what’s going on in some of our sister communities and some of the challenges they have that we’ve bypassed because of the staff here,” Mayor Steve Young said. “We don’t have a Road 68 here.”

Young later said he wasn’t taking a shot at Pasco’s busy street, but was pointing out how Kennewick has planned areas like Southridge to have plenty of room to grow.

“We’ve been fortunate in the way our city has been laid out that we don’t have an area with complex traffic problems,” he said.

Councilman Paul Parish, who won his election earlier this month, added that they first need to teach people how to vote. Benton County, so far, has reported the lowest voter turnout of any county in Washington, according to the Secretary of State’s office, with 32.6 percent of registered voters participating in the recent races.

West Richland council turnover

The West Richland City Council will have four new members next year out of seven. And Port of Kennewick officials want to get to know them.

Port commissioners want to make sure the four new members, three of whom upended incumbents in the recent election, are familiar with the port’s plans at the former Tri-City Raceway and of the historic working relationship between the port and city.

The city worked with the port on bringing the racetrack into West Richland’s urban growth area, so the 92 acres set aside for the port’s planned wine development there could have city sewer and water service.

With new city council members in West Richland, Richland and Kennewick, Commissioner Tom Moak said it is time for port officials to meet more with other area decision makers, instead of talking so much to business leaders.

“The chamber has a meeting every month, and we’re not meeting even yearly with the city councils, and talking about our mutual interests,” Moak said. “If we have to focus our time, I’d rather focus it on the public policy makers who actually make the decisions in the community than others.”

Moak also had some concerns about some of the boards that port members serve on. He questioned whether the port should be represented on the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce board, saying the port should support the regional chamber.

The idea to work with the Hispanic chamber grew out of cooperation the port found while working on a Hispanic-themed mural project on Columbia Drive, board President Don Barnes said.

Moak also said a joint board between the port, city of Kennewick and Kennewick Public Hospital District might have run its course because the Southridge hospital is now up and running.

Newhouse gets props

Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, recently received the “Hero of Main Street” award from the National Retail Federation and Washington Retailers Association for “his support of legislation critical to U.S. retail, including trade, health care reform, and tax reform,” according to a news release.

“As a third-generation farmer, I have firsthand experience with the challenges and opportunities that come with running a small business,” Newhouse said. “In many cases, simply reducing excessive regulations and cutting red tape can give small businesses the opportunity to do what they do best: create jobs and grow the economy.

The retail federation also donated $406 to Newhouse’s campaign in March, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543, @GeoffFolsom