Council considers 1 percent property tax increase; public hearing set for Nov. 21

Finance Director Janella Lewis speaks to the Mountlake Terrace City Council Thursday night.

The Mountlake Terrace City Council at its Thursday, Nov. 17 work/study session heard a recommendation from staff to increase both the city’s general fund property tax and EMS (Emergency Medical Services) levies by 1% in 2023.

The council is scheduled to hold a public hearing and then vote on the proposal at its Monday, Nov. 21 business meeting. The 1% increase is the maximum allowed by state law.

City Finance Director Janella Lewis explained that 62% of the revenue for the city’s general fund — which totals nearly $26 million — comes from taxes, with nearly 27% from property taxes.

Seven different taxing districts collect property taxes from Mountlake Terrace residents, Lewis noted, with the city’s portion at about 18%. The largest chunk — at 37% — goes to the Edmonds School District, followed by the state school fund at 31%.

The value of an average Mountlake Terrace home is estimated to increase by 28.3% in 2023, to $616,743, according to the Snohomish County Assessor’s Office. That’s compared to an assessed value of $480,500 in 2022, Lewis said.

Without the 1% property tax increase, the city would receive $4,793,813 in property tax revenue in 2023, increasing the total tax per average Mountlake Terrace home by $20 — from $534 to $554 annually.

With the 1% increase, the city would receive $4,840,000 in property tax revenue and would increase the average annual tax per home by $26 — from $534 to $560.

As for the EMS levy, which can only be used to fund EMS care or services, without the proposed 1% increase the EMS tax for an average home in 2023 would be $154 annually, an increase of $6. With the 1% increase, the amount would be $156, a $7 increase.

Assuming a 1% increase for both the operating and EMS levies, the total property taxes paid by the average Mountlake Terrace homeowner would increase by $33 in 2023.

“The State of Washington has a budget-based property tax system, not a tax rate system,” Lewis explained. “So when assessed values increase, the rate decreases, and when the assessed values decrease, the rate increases.

“Property tax rates in Washington use a complex math exercise to determine the rates,” she continued. “The county assessor’s office sets the rates based on the amounts levied by the tax districts.”

Lewis then shared a chart showing the 2022 typical total property tax paid per average resident for Snohomish County cities, which indicates that Mountlake Terrace — in green at $4,175 annually — is at the lower-middle end of the range.

Staff is recommending a 1% increase in both the general levy property tax and EMS levy, which is consistent with the city’s 2023 proposed budget and six-year financial forecast, Lewis said.

In other business Tuesday night, the council continued to discuss the city’s proposed 2023-24 biennial budget, which staff presented Nov. 7.

Assistant City Manager Stephen Clifton followed up on additional budget ideas the council raised last week, including hiring a consultant to present an economic conditions/market analysis. Such a study would include an post-pandemic review of the Town Center plan, demographics, employment and economic structure locally and regionally, and a look at broad national and regional trends in areas such as housing affordability, labor markets, and land use. The budgeted cost for such work would be $100,000 and would be covered by federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.

Another idea raised Thursday night was contracting with the Economic Alliance for Snohomish County to help the Mountlake Terrace Business Association make its transition to a chamber of commerce. Clifton said that EASC proposed hiring someone to work with smaller cities in the region — including Mountlake Terrace — in such an effort, with an estimated cost of $49,000 to the city. That would also be funded through ARPA, for both 2023 and 2024.

Councilmembers also talked at length about providing funding for all of the city’s boards and commissions. The current proposed budget includes $30,000 annually over the next two years — funded through ARPA — to contract with a consultant to assist the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Commission with its work plan, events and meetings.

As a starting point for allocating funds, Councilmember Erin Murray suggested seeking the opinions of the boards and commissions themselves.

“I think it would be helpful to ask the commissions what resources they need,” Murray said. “If there were funding, what would they use funding for and what do they see as needs for their group?”

Mayor Pro Tem Bryan Wahl said he agrees it’s important to focus on the needs of the various boards and commissions. But he added he would prefer to have separate funding for developing work plans vs. the events that the various groups put on.

Councilmember Murray also reiterated the idea — raised by Councilmember Steve Woodard last week — about hiring a grant manager to offload some of the grant application work that now falls on city staff. Clifton replied that he can develop some numbers related to that request, adding that it may makes more sense to contract with a consultant to do that work rather than hiring a full-time employee.

Finally, the council heard a presentation from Finance Director Lewis about a set of proposed revisions to the city’s purchasing policies, which were last updated in September 2012.

“With the passage of time, inflation rates and current prices we have decided to update our policy to increase dollar thresholds to federal standards,” Lewis said. These include increasing the dollar amount of various purchasing procedures, and adding a purchasing code of ethics, controlling laws and monitoring compliance section to comply with federal regulations.

The council is scheduled to take action on that policy Monday night.

Also on Monday night’s council agenda is review and potential adoption of an ordinance that would allow police to issue a trespass notice to individuals who exhibit disruptive, abusive or criminal behavior while in city buildings or on city property. That measure originally came before the council Nov. 3, but Police Chief Pete Caw took it back to the city attorney for revisions based on council feedback.

Monday’s meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in Mountlake Terrace City Hall, 23204 58th Ave. W. To attend a meeting online, go to and enter meeting ID 843 2944 0087 and passcode 112122.

To listen via telephone, call 1-253-215-8782 and enter the same meeting ID and passcode listed above.

You also can view livestreamed meetings and past recordings at

You can see the complete Monday night agenda here.


  1. Stop taxing us out of our homes! Or at the very least, set an age lock on property tax. Seniors on fixed incomes are going to be forced out of Washington if you keep raising taxes.

  2. Obviously a property tax increase – especially the maximum amount allowed by law (!) – occurring at the same time as colossal interest rate hikes and massive inflation is absurd. That this is even being considered is disappointing, and obviously anyone in favor of this should not expect reelection.

    1. I agree 100%, but realistically they are not bothered one bit about “not being re-elected”. They know that here in this state they can do anything they want and never worry about elections. I’ll never understand why the people of Washington just keep making the same choices over and over and over and over….. I guess it’s right that making the same mistake over and over again and expecting a different outcome IS the definition of insanity !

  3. I whole heartly agree. With all the taxing, I will not ever be able to retire and pay for just the basics.

  4. I don’t see anything in the article about why the finance people want a 1% tax increase. One tax increase will go to EMS – is it to support basic services, add new technology, what? One tax increase is for the general fund – what does the general fund pay for, why do they want more money, etc.?

    Without that information, it’s difficult for people to interpret whether the increases are truly needed or not. Everyone’s first reaction is “don’t raise our taxes!!” when having more information would make everything easier to understand.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Real first and last names — as well as city of residence — are required for all commenters.
This is so we can verify your identity before approving your comment.

By commenting here you agree to abide by our Code of Conduct. Please read our code at the bottom of this page before commenting.