So where did Clark County’s tax bank come from?

From left to right, Clark County Councilors Jeanne Stewart, David Madore and Tom Mielke

From left to right, Clark County Councilors Jeanne Stewart, David Madore and Tom Mielke

Ask Councilor Jeanne Stewart, and she’ll tell you raising Clark County’s property tax levy beyond the allowed 1 percent would be “crazy,” or “political suicide.”

But if you’ve been following my coverage of Councilor David Madore’s proposed charter amendment, you’ll know that the Republican councilor is doing everything he can to put a road block in front of the very consideration of that.

Just as a recap, state law prohibits counties from raising property tax revenue in individual taxing districts by more than 1 percent annually. A county can, however, decide not to raise taxes one year, bank that capacity, and save it for the following year. The county banked taxes in 2011, 2012 and 2013, so feasibly, the current county council could raise its tax levy by 4 percent this year.

What’s interesting is this amendment’s most vocal supporters, Councilors Tom Mielke and Madore, are partially to blame for just how large our tax bank is in the first place.

At the end of 2011, the Clark County commission, made up by Mielke, Democrat Steve Stuart and Republican Marc Boldt, voted unanimously to approve a 0 percent levy increase for the following year, thereby banking the 1 percent lift.

At the end of 2012, Mielke and Boldt both voted to approve a 0 percent general fund levy increase. Stuart, according to meeting minutes, was absent.

At the end of 2013, Madore, Mielke and Stuart unanimously voted to approve a 0 percent general fund levy increase.

In 2014, the council took a different tact, the Clark County budget office explained to me. The council did not pass a 0 percent fund increase by resolution, instead just rolling the 0 percent increase into its budget. Doing so basically threw out that tax increase. It wasn’t banked. It wasn’t applied. It’s gone.

I’m inclined to agree with Stewart that hiking the tax levy by 4 percent will have disastrous political consequences for whoever proposes it. The problem is, as she pointed out Tuesday, that not supporting this amendment—and none of the county council candidates have openly done so—may give the false impression of being in support of tax hikes.

Madore will reintroduce a resolution scheduling a hearing on the charter amendment next week. It died due to lack of action this week, but with the full council, Madore and Mielke will likely vote to move it forward and schedule a hearing for early next year. Stewart, assuming she sticks to her guns, will vote against it.

The new council could just as easily vote to cancel the hearing once all five members are seating next year.

But hey, Madore, as usual, has got people talking.

Kaitlin Gillespie

Kaitlin Gillespie

I'm the education reporter at The Columbian. Get in touch at or 360-735-4517.

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