Conservation District Special Assessment
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• Interlocal Cooperation Act Agreement Between Island County, Whidbey Island Conservation District and Snohomish Conservation District Regarding Special Assessments
• Ordinance No. C-148-09
• Ordinance No. C-19-12
• Whidbey Island and Snohomish Conservation Districts: Providing Special Benefits to Island County Land and Landowners
On November 25, 2009, the Board of Island County Commissioners (BICC) approved Ordinance No. C-148-09 approving a Special Assessment to fund the Whidbey Island Conservation District’s (WICD) work on Whidbey Island, and the Snohomish Conservation District’s (SCD) work on Camano Island. Prior to the District’s proposal to the Commissioners asking them to consider the special assessment, the Districts engaged Resource Consulting Service, LLC to prepare an economic analysis of the benefits the Conservation District’s services would provide to land and landowners. This report, “Whidbey Island and Snohomish Conservation Districts: Providing Special Benefits to Island County Land and Landowners” is available here.
Extensive public outreach took place throughout the process leading up to the implementation of the special assessment. The public supported having a consistent funding mechanism for District work and appreciated that the assessment would allow the Districts to address local natural resource needs and concerns with a local source of funding.
The Conservation District’s Boards of Supervisors recommended a $5.00 per parcel and $.05/acre assessment, consistent with the Special Benefit Report. However, due to concerns about the Island County computer system’s ability to produce accurate acreage data which the Districts would use to create the assessment roll, the special assessment was implemented without the $.05/ acre assessment because the cost of determining actual acreages would have exceeded revenue received from the per acre portion of the assessment.
In a February of 2012, the Supreme Court of Washington decision in Cary v. Mason County found that a Mason County assessment ordinance was invalid on statutory grounds because the ordinance set the per acre assessment at $0.00. The Court stated that the RCW establishing the district assessments (RCW 89.08.400(3)) and the State Conservation Commission rule on district assessments (Chapter 135-100 WAC) both require a per parcel assessment and a per acre assessment. The Island County Ordinance C-148-09 did not include the per acre assessment.
The Board of Island County Commissioners set a special meeting for February 21, 2012 to discuss repealing or revising Island County Ordinance No. C-148-09. At this meeting, the Commissioners set a public hearing to be held on March 12, 2012 to consider adoption of one of two possible ordinances (Ordinance No. C-19-12 or Ordinance No. C-20-12) in order to add a per acre assessment to conform to the requirement that special assessments be based upon a $5.00 flat rate plus an additional per acre assessment which would be set at $.05/acre. Ordinance C-20-12 and C-19-12 set the same assessment rate but C-20-12 would reduce the number of years of the assessment term to end in 2014 instead of the original 10-year assessment. (Link to Public Notice). Updated computer systems allowed calculation of parcel acreages. On March 12, 2012, Ordinance C-19-12 was approved and adopted.