douglas county logoThe Douglas County Board of Commissioners adopted resolutions certifying 2024 property tax levies at a public meeting this morning, December 4. After the public meeting, Commissioner Steinburg read the following statement regarding the Chelan Douglas Regional Port Authority levy to be entered into record.
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As duly sworn representatives of Douglas County and the constituents therein, we cannot in good faith take action to certify this levy without first stating our protest for the record. There are numerous concerns regarding this action, both legislative and legal, and in light of those glaring issues, it would be unconscionable to certify this levy without our protest.

The enabling legislation, HB 1663, was not effective until July 27, 2023. Within the bill it requires a district to pass a resolution authorizing the unified property tax levy no later than July 1. While the Port did pass such a resolution, it was done so before the legislation was enacted. This clearly raises the serious concern as to whether action taken prior to the effective date is valid. It is our contention that this action is not a legally available avenue during the 2023 calendar year due to the timing requirements, rendering the measure invalid.

Furthermore, while the Chelan Douglas Regional Port Authority operates as a functionally consolidated entity, it is not a legally consolidated district. Voters have not approved this merger and the entanglements it would entail. As this is not a legal, voter-approved consolidation, it is our position that any measure that allows one jurisdiction to dictate the tax rates of another is illegal and unconstitutional.

While it is apparent that this process has been flawed since its inception, additional errors were introduced during the actual ballot process that have had undeniable consequences, including the ballot title itself.

The levy rate printed on the ballots and within the Voter’s guide refers to the proposed rate as “approximately 0.164 cents/ $1,000 of assessed value for both districts.” This rate, as printed, represents a significant decrease from the existing rate of 13.7 cents/$1,000 for Douglas County. A public statement released by the CDRPA asserts that the rate was intended to be 16.4 cents/$1,000 and that the misprint was a simple scrivener’s error. However, in order to be considered a scrivener’s error, all parties must agree, which we do not. We have received communication from voters stating that they believed the levy rate was a decrease and as such voted in favor. This error has had immeasurable impact on the information available to Douglas County voters, impacting their decisions.

To complicate the ballot issue further is the question as to who is responsible for drafting this language. In a public statement, the CDRPA stated that they themselves prepared this ballot language. This undertaking is in clear violation of RCW 29A.36.071, which requires the ballot language for entities other than a city, town, or county, must be prepared by the prosecuting attorney of the county where the majority of the entity is located.  

Sentiments expressed by the CDRPA Board of Commissioners have repeatedly indicated that there is inherent conflict in adequately representing Douglas County on a consolidated Board. Numerous allusions have been made to a formal consolidation eliminating Douglas County representatives, showcasing that the region may not be being considered holistically at present.  If the CDRPA is already making decisions in the best interest of both Counties, why would the legal consolidation impact that practice?

The Douglas County Board of Commissioners feels strongly that the will of Douglas County voters was overwhelmingly expressed with roughly 72% rejecting the measure. To ignore this clear, direct, and intentional action would be in direct conflict with our responsibility to represent our County. Continued creation of regional entities show an alarming trend of disenfranchisement of the constituents of Douglas County. Without the requirement for measures to be passed by both Counties, not just a simple majority of voters, Douglas County is increasingly losing the ability to shape their community with the same impact as their peers across the river, an outcome we cannot overlook.

By law and by constitutional construct, the Douglas County Board of Commissioners is bound by their legislative authority to presume the legality of the law as presented regardless of the reservations we have.  We encourage aggrieved parties to pursue avenues to find relief from the problematic effects to voters.