Mukilteo sales tax rises to 10.5 percent

City is tied with Mill Creek, Lynnwood for highest in state
By Brandon Gustafson | Apr 03, 2019
Courtesy of: City of Mukilteo

No, it wasn’t an April Fools’ Day joke – sales tax in Mukilteo went up once again, keeping it the highest in the state.

The tax rose by 0.1 percent on Monday, making it 10.5 percent, which is tied with Mill Creek and Lynnwood for the highest sales tax rate in Washington.

Why the tax increase?

Last November, Snohomish County voters passed Prop. 1, which raised sales tax in the county by 0.1 percent starting April 1, to help pay for new equipment and facilities for the Snohomish County Emergency Radio System (SERS), the radio service used by first responders in the county. The old system SERS uses is over 20 years old.

The measure passed 54.19 percent to 45.81 percent, with a voter turnout of just over 70 percent for the entire county.

Last summer, the Snohomish County Council voted unanimously to put Prop. 1 on the November ballot.

“The emergency communication system used by Snohomish County local law enforcement and fire protection agencies to communicate with each other and with the countywide 911 emergency dispatch agency has reached the end of its useful life,” the 2018 voter pamphlet reported.

“The Snohomish County Council has determined that replacing the emergency communication system is necessary to ensure that life-saving, police and fire services are provided in a timely, reliable, and effective manner in Snohomish County.”

The pamphlet also said all the revenue generated by the additional sales tax will be used to fund costs associated with financing, designing, acquiring, constructing, equipping, operating, maintaining, remodeling, repairing, re-equipping, and improving emergency communication systems and facilities.

In the argument for approving the proposition, Snohomish County Sheriff Ty Trenary, fire chief of Snohomish County Fire District No. 22 Chief Travis Hots, and Dan Clements, a finance director, said when the system fails, bad things could happen.

“The existing 20-year-old 911 emergency radio system is failing and must be replaced. When our old, 911 radio system goes down, as it did last January, emergency responders are delayed and reduce the chances to save lives,” they wrote.

Last year, SERS and SNO911, the county’s 911 dispatch center agreed to merge, which started Jan. 1.

SNO911 was formed in January 2018 when Snohomish County’s two 911 centers, SNOCOM and SNOPAC, merged.

According to a news release from SERS, the consolidation of the 911 entities eliminated roughly 45,000 911 transfers that previously occurred between the two agencies, which saved over $600,000 in user fees in a short amount of time.

The older SERS system is an analog system, and the work to implement a new digital platform, along with new handheld radios for emergency personnel and four new radio towers in the county, is expected to cost more than $70 million.

The April 1 increase is the second sales tax increase in Mukilteo in the last two years.

In the November 2017 election, Mukilteo voters approved Prop. 1, which raised sales tax from 10.3 percent to 10.4 percent, to help with transportation improvements in the city via the city’s transportation benefit district (TBD).

That tax expires after 10 years, at which point voters would have to vote again for it to be extended. The funds from that 0.1 percent is dedicated to transportation, and is used for street maintenance as well as pedestrian and bicycle safety projects.

Prior to the 2017 election, the city of Mukilteo said the new tax was estimated to cost the average Mukilteo taxpayer approximately $10 per year.

The sales tax rate for the state of Washington is 6.5 percent, while the local rate for Mukilteo is 4 percent.

That 4 percent consists of 0.1 percent for SERS and another 0.35 in Snohomish County taxes, 0.1 percent for the city’s TBD and another 0.85 in city taxes, and 1.4 percent for Sound Transit and 1.2 percent for Community Transit.




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