FERNDALE, Wash. — Members of the Ferndale City Council and City staff met at a special meeting in the main conference room at City Hall today, November 27th, to discuss what was seen by many as a surprise veto of an approved 2020 property tax increase by Mayor Jon Mutchler.
Mutchler led the meeting and began by reading the letter that accompanied his veto earlier this week. The letter proposed finding alternative revenue resources, primarily increases in the solid waste tax paid by customers of Recycling & Disposal Services (RDS) and Republic Services. It was noted Ferndale has more solid waste tax revenue than it does sales tax revenue.
Councilmember Kate Bishop then made a motion to override the veto and that received a second from Councilmember Rebecca Xczar. Mutchler then asked for discussion on the motion.
Bishop said she felt like the veto puts the council’s backs into a corner at the last minute and questioned why it was being put to them like this. She challenged the 2014 council saying that taxpayers would see no increase in their property taxes as a result of the fire district annexation, the purported source of the $1.4 million of banked capacity. Referring to the promises made at the time, Bishop said, “It doesn’t seem like a real binding thing.”
Councilmember Xczar said “The timing of all of this is really unfortunate and inappropriate and what a waste of staff time,” citing that the mayor directed staff to bring council the proposal for increasing property tax without requiring a vote of the people by using 100% of the banked capacity and then he issued a veto on a reduced increase that used 33% of banked capacity.
Councilmember and soon-to-be mayor Greg Hanson pointed out, “We do not know what the future holds for solid waste.” He added,
At this late date, to bring up these revenue ideas seems disingenuous. If my recollection is correct, the mayor was one of the most vocal advocates in favor of taking the banked capacity. The question that remains to be answered is, what changed? There was a vigorous discussion and I brought up a lot of these points along the way; about the source of the banked capacity and the fact it was a bit of a surprise and there was never any reservation at that point. But now that the election is over, negotiation with the police is over and at the moment of passing the budget we now have this decision to make. I second what councilmember Xczar said, I feel for the staff who is on a roller coaster ride here on a number of different levels.
At the beginning of the meeting, newly elected councilmembers Ryan O’Larey and Ramon Llanos were sworn in to the City Council positions vacated earlier this year and were then able to vote on the motion by Bishop. The other newly elected councilmembers will be sworn in at the first council meeting of 2020.
The motion to override the Mayor’s veto was approved with a vote of 6 to 1 with Olson opposed.