By Scott Hamilton
In a maneuver reminiscent of Sen. John Kerry’s infamous “I was for it before I voted against it” declaration in the 2004 presidential election, Sammamish Council Member Pam Stuart declared she would support taking the 1% property tax increase allowed by law.
Then she voted against it when the vote was called.
She was the deciding vote in causing the motion to fail.
The vote came after the council on Nov. 19 added $270,000 to the city’s expenditures for the next year that hadn’t been budgeted.
This included $120,100 for the Technology Fund and $150,000 for a grant in the Health and Human Services Commission dedicated for youth mental health.
Election year issues
These were two election year issues used against Mayor Christie Malchow in her campaign for reelection. Stuart opposed Malchow’s reelection. She supported the additional funding.
In speaking to the motion to take the 1% levy—which would raise property taxes from $1.50 to $1.51 per $1,000 assessed valuation, Stuart said the increase is necessary.
“This would be the 11th year in a row we would not take the 1%,” Stuart said. “We have been effectively lowering the tax rate for residents, which is fine, except for the fact we are running operationally in a deficit situation at this point. I would be supportive of taking the 1% if for no other reason than we have an extra $270,000 of expenses we just passed which will further erode our operational budget.”
Stuart voted for levy last year
Stuart and Malchow were the only council members to support the 1% levy last year.
This year, Council member Tom Hornish—who opposed the increase last year—made the motion to adopt the levy this year, citing the operating fund deficit spending.
Member Jason Ritchie opposed taking a levy increase in between the bi-annual budget process. Member Chris Ross opposed the increase without prioritizing spending before doing so.
Deputy Mayor Karen Moran, historically an opponent of tax increases, said the election made it clear that voters wanted infrastructure, so she supported this levy increase to cover funding for the additional expenditures. General funds, which have been used for roads, would not be reduced accordingly.
Shortly after Moran’s statement, Stuart voted against approving the levy. Because Council Member Ramiro Valderrama, who called into the meeting, dropped off the call, the vote was a 3-3 tie (Malchow, Moran and Hornish were yes; Stuart, Ritchie and Ross were no). Motions fail on a tie vote.
Stuart did not explain her flip-flop into a live microphone.
But Moran said Stuart looked at her after the vote and said, “There.” Moran said she asked Stuart why she voted no, to which Stuart replied she didn’t get everything she wanted.