By Sally Gillie, Monitor
A proposed city sales tax increase will go before Monroe voters in the Aug. 6 primary for the purpose of bolstering a police department budget that has been steadily reduced over the past four years.
The increase request is for 1/10 of 1 percent, or one penny for every $10, and would raise an estimated $309,000 annually, based on 2012 city sales revenues. Although 15 percent of that would go to Snohomish County, that would still leave an estimated $263,000 for criminal justice purposes. Those revenues could fund two of the six officer positions that have been cut in recent years, help fund large scale criminal investigations and purchase needed equipment.
Monroe Police Chief Tim Quenzer told the city council last January that the rationale for using a city sales tax to raise revenue is that it would most fairly target that large segment of the local population that use public safety services but don’t pay property taxes. The police department’s annual budget, $5.6 million in 2013, is funded mostly through property taxes, with additional dollars coming to the department through sales and utility tax revenue in the general fund, as well as tickets, fines and forfeitures and government grants.
The ballot proposal will ask voters to approve or reject the 0.1 percent city sales and use tax, with proceeds going exclusively for criminal justice purposes.
In its resolution calling for the ballot request, the city council endorsed the tax increase, stating that public safety is a city priority and that the economic downturn in recent years has been responsible for significant reductions in the department’s budget.
In his annual report before the city council last January, Chief Quenzer outlined the needs of his department, which he said was reduced to a “bare bones budget” in 2010. The high costs of homicide investigations in the subsequent years have created additional budget strain. A priority would be to hire new officers, allowing the city to return to a three-beat system that would reduce response times, and to purchase new equipment. The police department also needs climate controls and building repairs in its evidence room and a security system in its impound lot.