More backtracking slated for Clark County council
It’s been a rough week for Councilor David Madore, and next week likely isn’t going to get much better.
The council by a vote of 3 to 2 — due to the new majority created by County Chairman Marc Boldt, no party preference, and Republican Councilors Jeanne Stewart and Julie Olson — decided on Tuesday to revisit last month’s 2 percent tax decrease at next week’s meeting. The county could vote at that time to overturn the tax cut, but not if Madore, also a Republican, has anything to do with it.
In a Facebook post Thursday, Madore claims it would be illegal for the council to repeal the tax cut because the meeting hasn’t been properly noticed in The Reflector, Clark County’s paper of record. He implies that doing so could prompt the recall of the three councilors.
“It is not likely that the new majority will choose malfeasance and removal from office by repealing the property tax cut illegally,” Madore said. “The bottom line is that the citizens are protected from higher property taxes this year.”
State law, as Madore points out, requires that a taxing district that collects levies must hold a public hearing on revenue sources for that district’s current expense budget. Next week’s council meeting agenda lists this item as a “public meeting,” which readers of this blog may recall me writing about in response to one of Madore’s eight resolutions last month.
But Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Chris Horne disputed Madore’s interpretation of the law.
“The budget does require a public hearing,” Horne said. “The question is whether or not the board is seeking to review or reconsider the levy certification…or whether or not you’re seeking to reconsider the budget.”
The latter, Horne said, does require two weeks public notice. But a levy certification letter, which includes the 2 percent cut, is different than the actual budget.
“If the board is seeking only to reconsider the levy certification letter that was signed by the chair, then that does not require a public hearing under (the Open Public Meetings Law),” Horne said.
Acting County Manager Mark McCauley added that the 2 percent tax cut was passed too late in the year to be reflected in the budget the council approved.
Assessor Peter Van Nortwick, a Republican who has criticized the tax decrease, explained further, saying that the approved budget and the tax levy letter establishing the 2 percent reduction are two unlike items. The budget the county approved on Dec. 2 was written with no changes in property taxes apart from the increases that naturally occur from new construction. There were no cuts made in that budget to account for the $1.2 million reduction the 2 percent property tax levy cut creates.
“Basically (the council is) saying in the letter sent to the assessor, ‘let’s short him from what we passed,’” Van Nortwick said.
So any cuts that will have to be made as a result of that tax decrease are not actually a part of the revenue source for the supplemental budget passed in December. They will become part of the budget in the spring.
There’s no doubt that Madore will fight this as hard as he can next week if the council does in fact start to move forward with reversing the tax cut. As always, I’ll be tweeting the action starting at 10 a.m., or you can see it in person at 1300 Franklin Street in downtown Vancouver.