‘It’s too much’Council sets work session for special assessment policy on April 10
“It gets my attention when I feel if the city could have the right to assess me of up to 25 percent of my assessed value,” Larry Conway, a 17-year resident of South 12th Avenue, said. “It’s too much.”
About 15 residents of South 12th Avenue in Washington attended the regular Washington City Council meeting Wednesday evening to express concerns about the proposed special assessment policy that is threatening to increase their property tax levy. All speakers agreed that the possibility of being appraised for up to 25 percent of their properties’ assessed value to help pay for a project that would repave the street is out of line.
Mayor Sandra Johnson clarified that no date has been set for the project and the council is just examining the policy. Council member Bob Shepherd said later that it was “appropriate” that the people from South 12th attended the meeting. The council agreed that more discussion on the issue was needed and set a work session to be held in the Washington Public Library at 6 p.m. April 10.
Judy West of South 12th said the homeowners had discussed the program. She said there is a general consensus that repairing the road is a “costly and losing battle.” She said there is a tremendous amount of traffic on the street. She also said the street acts as a throughway to Airport Road and to the Washington County Hospital. She also mentioned that the road is used quite a bit for parking when athletic events are held at Case Field.
“We want information,” she said. “What does this entail? What is the dollar amount? Does this include sidewalks? How are you going to determine who benefits the most from that street being paved in order to assess them fairly and equally?”
The special assessment policy being explored by the council would allow the city to assess residences for special projects. City Administrator Brent Hinson said the theory is that certain taxpayers will get more benefit from projects — such as street projects in front of their houses — than others. He said the city assesses the taxpayers who receive more benefit a higher share of the tax burden of the project than the public as a whole.
During discussion Conway said the city needed to extend Fillmore Drive to Ninth Avenue. He said Ninth is the through street. Hinson said that the city’s comprehensive plan calls for doing that. He also said the reason the policy is coming up now is to ensure the council understands the policy and have an opportunity to give input.
Conway also said that many retirees live in the homes along 12th and he is concerned that an assessment may be for as much as $30,000 to $50,000.
Resident John Greiner said that a large amount of traffic uses the avenue.
“For this assessment to be placed solely on the people of South 12th, is what I just think is – excuse my language – lunacy,” he said. “I firmly believe 80 percent of the people who use that road do not live on that road.”
Many council members stressed the need for more discussion on the issue.
Council member Merle Hagie said that he wanted to know why the city used the procedure it did for determining the assessment.
“I think no one wants to hear we are doing something because ‘we have always done it that way,’ but when you have a policy in place that has shared that cost in a certain way on previous projects, it is hard to translate into an abandonment of that policy,” Mayor Sandra Johnson said.
Council member Bob Shellmyer said that he believes the traffic on the road would decrease property value. He said that he believes farmers should pay more to the city because they use the streets.
Shepherd said that he had a problem with unfair assessments.
“I want to look this over hard,” he said. “There are some areas I have some questions on.”