Opinion: The time is now for Civic Center and police facility renovations

By Linda Rogers
Chair, Yes for MLT campaign

In less than one week, voters will have their ballots in hand. The citizens group “Yes for MLT” (YesForMLT.com) is stepping up their positive messages about Proposition 1, the Civic Center proposal. Volunteers say they are energized by the support they are getting from the community and from speaking with undecided voters who have been misinformed by the “no new taxes” initiative.

Those opposed to Proposition 1 have said that supporters are asking for too much money by including a community center and police department upgrades, rather than a “stand-alone” city hall. The bond issue is not too much. In this economy, which is slowly recovering — asking voters for around $10 a month is not only reasonable, it is a bargain for what we will be getting for our money in this competitive construction market. Proposition 1 is about more than just a city hall. Itʼs also about the revitalization of our downtown core, keeping our city safe, protecting our investment in our library and providing amenities for families and citizens of all ages.

Proposition 1 proposes building a city hall and community center on property the City already owns in downtown MLT. The plans include major security and safety upgrades to police headquarters, which are currently outdated and undersized. There is also funding for renovations to the MLT Library, one of the Cityʼs most popular and most-utilized facilities.

Dozens of volunteers have been hard at work since January reaching out to residents who are in support of the project and those who want more information. The time is now for Mountlake Terrace to provide its residents with an economical, vibrant Civic Center – and to provide our first responders with a modern, safe and secure facility. We are not asking for a grandiose or wasteful project. There are many needs in the community that will be met with this project. Itʼs not responsible for us to kick these needs down the road for others to solve.

Voters who are still undecided can get questions answered at YesForMLT.com. The YES campaign has posted a FAQ page that addresses some of the “no new taxes” opposition arguments and helps clarify the history and details of the Civic Center plan.

  1. I completely agree with Linda Rogers. Now is the time to
    provide the facilities needed by our residents and the dedicated
    people that provide the services to our community. The few dollars
    each of us would spend now will benefit our community for many
    years to come. Look at the positive impact the Recreation Pavilion,
    Evergreen Playfield and the other city projects have made on our
    community. At that time there were also a few vocal nay-sayers who
    said they were too expensive and not needed. Time has proven them
    to be wrong. So are the complaints from those now objecting to
    Proposition 1. As a long-time resident of Mountlake Terrace, I
    understand how important it is to vote yes on Proposition 1.
    Experience shows the money will be well spent and prove to be a
    bargain. We are now the envy of our neighboring communities because
    Mountlake Terrace manages the taxpayer’s money carefully and gets
    the most benefit possible out of each dollar. This Proposition is
    one more example of how we are meeting the needs of our residents
    in a responsible and financially sound manner.

    1. It is surprising that you are quoting a $10 per month charge based on a levy average which includes an assumption that the house prices go up. The $10 dollar figure is a lie out in the open. Listen carefully: it is an AVERAGE of the levy effect over the 29+ years but the chart assumes a 3%+ increase in valuation per year in your home. THAT is the source of the decreasing levy amount. It is just bad math to assume your payment drops. Look at the second to last column: the amount we as citizens pay is fairly constant. (Check the city’s own spreadsheet upon which these statistics are based at https://www.cityofmlt.com/civicCenter/pdf/130107/4_LevyAmountsAndTaxImpactAnalysis.pdf ). In the first year all three bonds are active, a $190,000 home will be taxed at 0.87 per thousand (far right column). That is $165.30, not $122. Enjoy that for the next 30 years!

      1. Stephen – I think this needs to be clarified. I’m no real estate expert, but this is how I understand it. The change in the estimated levy amount for the average property owner is not based on the assumption that property values go up as you claim. The estimated levy amount $3.77 per month is 2014 to pay for the design and $13.66 per month starting in 2015. The reason the average of the estimate foes down slightly to $10.13 is assuming there is going to be some additional development in the City as we are seeing now (+5% every fifth year). What this effectively does is reduces the tax burden on the average home owner because you are adding value to property in the City by development, not by an increase in the overall market. The levy rate (87 cents per $1,000 value per year), not the amount ($13.66) is what you see decreasing because of assumptions about the overall real estate market (assumed +3% each year). An increase in development causes the assessed valuation of all properties in the City to increase at a greater rate than what the market may cause. Whether the assessed valuation growth due to the market is 3%, 2%, or 5% it’s likely to effect all properties in the City equally so while the levy rate may change the tax burden on an individual property will be fairly consistent. To reiterate, the reduction in the levy amount on the average property will be due to increased development in the City as we are seeing now and that’s where the $10/month estimate comes from. So no, no one is lying or trying to fool you.

        1. Hi Dustin, Thanks for thoughtfully considering my statement. You counter: “I’m no real estate expert, but this is how I understand it. The change in the estimated levy amount for the average property owner is not based on the assumption that property values go up as you claim.” You need only go to the city’s website (www.cityofmlt.com) to the link I provided you (and everyone else). At the top, plain as day are the words: “Assessed valuation GROWTH rate” (my emphasis) which refers to YOUR house and MY house growing in value. Their math wizards believe we will have 17% growth in value every five years (look to the right of the “Assessed” to see it). I am not buying it. It is math magic.
          I am not claiming anything. I am reading the City’s own spreadsheet upon which much of the misinformation and false statistics are built. If you have that spreadsheet open you can see that there is an attempt to cloud what our payments as citizens are by calling the second to last column “aggregate totals”, Of WHAT are they the totals? Of our PAYMENTS to the holders of the three bonds our city hopes to float. Note that the amount of $1,500,000 plus does not vary much over the 30 years. That means, barring some economic miracle no real economist expects, you and I will be shouldering the approximate same burden year for year, all the way to 2042 if we live that long.
          I want to believe. But I just can’t.

  2. Well said, Linda and Bob. I hope the super majority of voters understand the importance of this vote. This will dictate the path of Mountlake Terrace for years to come. With a YES, it will be for the better.

  3. Not trying to fool you Mr. Barnes, they’re just not explaining it very well. At least they’re not explaining how your tax bill in the first year in which all three bonds will be in place, 2015, is going to be anything different than what your math indicates, $165.

    If the years after that somehow result in so much additional development that the average decreases by more than $44 per year per household (which is not “slightly”), it is incumbent on those making such claims to provide something more in the way of clarification than pure speculation. After all if the average is nearly 30% lower, more than 1/2 the 30 years have to have greater decreases than 30%.

    It also suggests that our developed environment will have expanded by as much as 60% over the next 30 years. Growth of +5% every fifth year will barely get you to 35% after 30 years, which can not result in any particular taxpayer seeing an average decrease of nearly 30%.

    Said another way, the numbers Mr. DeKoekkoek cites do not jibe. If he is relying on a numerical model including a measure of all the variables he uses, someone must have produced it. If he has it, lets see it. If he doesn’t, he (or whoever gave him these numbers) is just pulling them out of the air.

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