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Officials in Medina, Wash. — located about 5 miles northwest of Seattle and ranked the seventh richest ZIP code in the U.S. by Bloomberg — said the town is running out of money to support services, including police, fire and parks. A town newsletter sent out this month is urging residents to vote yes on a ballot measure that would lift the property tax cap.
“You may find it hard to imagine that the City doesn’t have enough income to sustain current service levels, particularly in this economy. While property values continue to rise, the City’s tax revenues don’t rise in tandem,” the newsletter read.
“Since 2001, local governments (like Medina) are not allowed to raise their portion of the property tax levy beyond one percent a year without a vote of the public,” the newsletter continued. “The City’s total 2019 property tax income will be $2.8 million, and a 1 percent increase would only yield an additional $28,000 for the City in 2020, not nearly enough to cover the rising cost of services.”
The town said fire services costs increased nearly twofold in 2019.
“This fall, the question of how to maintain Medina will go to voters. The Medina City Council is placing a levy lid lift measure on the Nov. 2019 ballot. If approved, the levy lid lift would provide funds to continue current service levels without significant cuts,” the newsletter stated.
If residents vote to pass the ballot measure in November, the property tax would increase from 64 cents for every $1,000 of assessed value to 84 cents per $1,000, The Seattle Times reported.
“It’s really just a math question,” Michael Sauerwein, Medina’s city manager, told The Seattle Times. “The rate of inflation for the cost of core government services is going up faster than revenues.”
The town said only 8 percent of the property tax revenue goes back into Medina. Most of the property taxes collected funds services for the county and state such as schools and transportation system.
Bezos and Gates have specific links to the state. Amazon’s headquarters resides in Seattle while Microsoft headquarters' main campus is located in Redmond.
Gates’ Medina mansion is also well known. Dubbed “Xanadu 2.0,” the $60 million house has 24 bathrooms and took seven years to build, Curbed Seattle reported. The billionaire also reportedly owns several houses surrounding the property for additional privacy.
Bezos lives not too far from Gates in a 5.35-acre estate that includes two structures, a boathouse and caretaker's cottage, Curbed reported.
Town officials emphasized Medina is on an “unsustainable path,” with a projected city deficit at $500,000 by 2020. The deficit is expected to reach $3.3 million by 2025.