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September 18, 2019

9/4/2019 4:14:00 PM
Council's affordable housing resolution sends funds to county

La Conner’s Town Council passed a resolution Aug. 27 that allows tapping the state sales tax for affordable housing. The “resolution of intent” declaring Council will adopt an ordinance by next July passed 5-0. Local governments in Skagit County and across the state are passing these resolutions ahead of a January deadline, prompted by new state legislation, SHB 1406.

La Conner’s sale tax credit will go into a Skagit County pool for building new affordable housing.
At its Aug. 13 meeting Council passed Councilmember Jacques Brunisholz’s motion to not place a levy to double the fund by increasing the local sales tax before the voters. Instead, Council agreed to send the money to the County. This passed unanimously. (See correction on page 2: The Weekly News wrongly reported Aug. 21 that Council did not make a decision to vote on increasing the local sales tax.)
Council gave up local control of about $3,900 annually for 20 years, an amount estimated by the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance. State legislation gave the Town the option of providing rental assistance to tenants earning 60% or less of the county median income.
Council passed its resolution without discussion.
Councilmembers spent 20 minutes discussing the Town’s water agreement with the City of Anacortes. Administrator Scott Thomas prepared a memo for Council and resident Dan O’Donnell had provided Council and staff various analyses, the latest, “Anacortes water charges for 2019,” dated Aug. 17.
O’Donnell has long made the argument that Anacortes is overcharging the Town for water by improperly billing on line items throughout the City’s water budget on both the operations and capital sides including billing La Conner for items within Anacortes city limits and for debt.
O’Donnell estimates the Town is overcharged some $1,880 monthly and over $22,500 annually.
Councilmember Bill Stokes questioned accounting practices that lumped expenditures together and charged for work done within their city limits. He noted that at some point auditors would untangle such expenses.
Councilmember Mary Wohleb was told the agreement runs to 2036. Councilmember Marylee Chamberlain wondered about gaining leverage by meeting with other regional customers, including the City of Oak Harbor and the oil refineries.
Mayor Ramon Hayes supported Stokes’ calls for answers, suggesting that Thomas craft “a specific question, then we can expect a very specific answer.”
Thomas was asked to start a discussion with the Anacortes administrator.
Council also continued its discussion about using TVI Investments, a financial investments firm, to manage funds it now places in certificates of deposits.
Funding building a dike northeast of Town was the focus of the Mayor’s Roundtable. At 7 p.m. Council went into a 35 minute executive session to discuss the collective bargaining agreement with Town

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• Ken Stern

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Published every Wednesday in La Conner Washington
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