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June 17, 2019

9/12/2014 11:10:00 AM
BREAKING: Swinomish Tribal Senate to establish property tax

The Swinomish Tribal Senate has announced that it will adopt a property tax law that applies to leased tribal trust land.  


The Swinomish Indian Senate, the governing body of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, has established a working group of Tribal Senators and staff to develop a property tax law that would apply to leased trust land within the Swinomish Reservation. The property tax would be considered for adoption as Tribal law by the Senate.

“There is a consensus among the Senate members that the Swinomish Tribe will adopt a property tax law,” said Swinomish Chairman Brian Cladoosby. “We have waited decades for this opportunity to raise revenue to help pay the costs of the essential governmental services that the Tribe has long-provided to Reservation residents, such as law enforcement, public safety and road maintenance.”

The Senate’s action complements the decision Tuesday by Skagit County Commissioners to remove more than 900 structures on leased trust from theCountyAssessor’s rolls. The

Commissioners’ decision implements the recent decision of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in the Great Wolf Lodge case.

“Swinomish was not a part of the Great Wolf Lodge case,” said Chairman Cladoosby. “But we are thankful for the favorable ruling of the Court of Appeals, and the opportunity that is now available to the Swinomish Senate to exercise our sovereignty and establish a Tribal property tax code.”

Swinomish Senators and staff have already met with leaders and staff fromSkagitCountyand the La Conner School District to discuss the Great Wolf Lodge decision. “This is a complex issue, and our meetings with the County andSchool Districthave been constructive,” said Chairman Cladoosby.

“I anticipate that the Swinomish working group will continue those communications at appropriate times as the Tribe develops its property tax code.”

The Swinomish Indian Tribal Community is a federally recognized Indian Tribe with more than 900 members. Swinomish is a signatory to the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott and is the legal successor in interest to the Samish, Kikialus,Lower Skagitand Swinomish aboriginal bands. Its 10,000 acre reservation is located 65 miles North of Seattle, Washington onFidalgoIslandand includes approximately 3000 acres of tidelands.

Related Stories:
• Tax decisions eliminate some, but not all uncertainty
• Tax immunity hands funding dilemma to tribe

Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, April 22, 2015
Article comment by: Rita Hornbeck

After living a wonderful life in Shelter Bay for more than 20 yrs. paying community dues, leasehold fees and marina fees---and staying through a painful lawsuit with the tribe, and losing---I still have fond memories of the people and the community that reflected the pride they had in their environs & their acceptance of responsibility to pay for the privilege of being there.

Right next door was, and is, a picture of disrepair, while seemingly ignoring lessees attempts to stay good stewards of the land. People in Shelter Bay have tried to adhere to tribal rules, regarding what can and what cannot be changed....and I think most are still willing to be fair-minded.

When we lost the "land valuation" fiasco, we ended up paying 5 yrs. retro-activally on lease fees, and did it. Now, others in the county are expected to make up for lost revenues, ie: the current tax situation. This is, in no way, fair to those folks.

I do not live there, anymore, and feel for all those who do. I'd be furious about the recent "feather" the tribe has acquired, and refuse to pay any so-called "tax" they will levy, until I knew there would be a proviso by them to adjudicate proper school funding. When the tribe realizes how much of a need there is for on-going education for all the children, theirs, included---surely their thoughts will change.

Right now, it puts me in mind of an old feudal lord. If the tribe is now, legally, able to levy tax, what's to keep them from prounouncing a tribal need so great---the peasant is no longer able to meet it?

AND, I keep coming back to the adage about "taxation without representation". We all need to fight this new ruling by the court.

Rita Hornbeck

Posted: Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Article comment by: Sandy Stokes

There are many questions about the tribal land tax issue that have no answers yet.
However, that does not mean that the questions have not been asked.
I can report only the answers and facts I do get. And so far, most of the answers are coming from the county officials.
The tribal officials are working on the issue, and so far, they have disclosed few details. I believe they want to have a final decision and the actual, solid facts in hand before they provide information to the public.
I promise that as soon as this newspaper has more information, you'll have it, too.

Posted: Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Article comment by: Bill Davis

I read with interest your article regarding the Swinomish Tribal Senate establishing a property tax on owners of improvements in Shelter Bay. I've noted that past articles in the La Conner Weekly News have consistently been concerned with continued funding of services provided by Skagit County in light of the Great Wolf Lodge decision extending tax exemption to Shelter Bay residents, and the resulting need to ask Tribal leaders to collect property taxes on behalf of the County in order to avoid serious bugetary shortfalls.

As a resident of Shelter Bay, I can assure you that I value the services we receive, and am content to pay my fair share of the taxes to support those services. Shelter Bay residents did not seek, nor have we endorsed the Great Wolf decision, and I think I can speak for my neighbors when I say that we budget for tax payment.

While the La Conner Weekly News has been quick to report this story from the County's perspective, I'm disappointed that the paper has failed to report an equally valid concern dealing with basic fairness to Shelter Bay residents.

You reported Swinomish Chairman Brian Cladoosby as saying, "We have waited decades for this opportunity to raise revenue to help pay the costs of the essential government services that the Tribe has long-provided to Reservation residents, such as law enforcement, public safety and road maintenance." This does not sound like collecting tax revenue for the County for schools and such, and if that is the intent, it sound a lot like an intent to collect even more for Tribal interests.

I am not prepared to debate what should be funded by the rent collected by the Tribe or whether the amounts collected are adequate. I know that I benefit from both the Tribe and the County, and I pay rent and taxes to each (respectively), but now for no fault of Shelter Bay, there is great uncertainty as to whether my neighbors and I will continue to afford to live here.

Perhaps the La Conner Weekly News could ask some probing questions about what obligation the Tribe has to collect taxes for the County. Can the County contract this to the Tribe, and if so, can the Tribe increase the taxes? Is there a limit to any increase? Is this supposed to be a windfall for the Tribe? What recourse is there for Shelter Bay residents for "taxation without representation" in addition to the rent already collected by the Tribe?

Please don't get me wrong as I'm not complaining because nothing has been decided yet to be complained about. However, I'd welcome some good old fashioned journalism from our local paper that questions assumptions and uncovers issues that have been overlooked in prior articles. What are the legal issues, and how do we assure taxpayers of fair and reasonable tax responsibility equitably applied?

We look to our local paper to report local news, and this means reporting more than the obvious. Here is the chance to do some investigative reporting and inform your readers about what is taking place behind the scenes. That won't guarantee a fair and equitable outcome, but it will certainly put a spotlight on any potential inequities.

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