Conservation District Special Assessment
On November 25, 2009, the Board of Island County Commissioners (BICC) approved Ordinance No. C-148-09 approving a Special Assessment to help 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 submitting a special assessment proposal to the County Commissioners, WICD and SCD engaged Resource Consulting Service, LLC to prepare an economic analysis of the benefits conservation district services would provide to local residents 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 implementation of the special assessment. The public supported having a consistent, local funding mechanism for conservation district work in Island County and appreciated that the assessment would allow both districts to address local natural resource needs and concerns.
WICD and SCD's Boards of Supervisors recommended a $5.00 per parcel and $.05/acre assessment, consistent with the Special Benefit Report. However, at the time, the Island County Assessor had concerns that, due to inadequate computer systems, the cost of determining actual acreages would have exceeded revenue received from the per acre portion of the assessment. This concern resulted in WICD and SCD agreeing to implement the special assessment without the $.05/ acre assessment.
In February of 2012, a Washington State Supreme Court decision in Cary v. Mason County found that a Mason County Conservation District 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.
In response to this decision, 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). Also, by this time, updated county computer systems enabled calculation of both the per parcel and per acre assessment in a cost-effective manner. On March 12, 2012, Island County Ordinance C-19-12 was approved and adopted.
(click on the title to view the complete document)
• 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