City of Centralia City Manager’s View
by Lowell Crow—
There are many issues that face the City in the upcoming year. One of the hottest of topics is the sales tax increase that will be placed on the April 6, 2021 ballot. This will not be an article trying to convince you to vote for it but rather simply give you facts about the sales tax.
In December, the City Council passed an ordinance to place a .5% increase which is the equivalent of 50 cents tax per every hundred dollars spent. If the sales tax increase passes, the City has dedicated that money per resolution to go to fire and police departments. Currently the Fire and Police budgets account for 70% of the City’s budget. I know that citizens feel that they pay enough with the current sales tax and property tax. 100% of your property tax goes to dedicated funds which include money to maintain the Airport and for funding of the City’s portion of the Recreation Center. The biggest portion of the property tax goes to Fire and Police pensions. The City contributes $2,013,229 out of property tax to the Fire and Police pensions. This leaves very little money for paying for new equipment.
The City replaces two police cars a year. Our officers regularly put an average of 35,000 miles on the City’s police cars and the average life of each vehicle is three years. Additionally, we have replaced the radios and body cameras every three years as new upgrades come along. This along with other equipment needing replaced means we spend an average of $200,000 on police equipment.
The Fire Department was using fire trucks that were beyond their usable life and were unable to be certified. Additionally, we must replace hose, fire suits and the breathing apparatus on a regular basis. The whole cost of all this equipment runs approximately $225,000 on an annual basis.
The Centralia sales tax rate is currently 7.5% with Salem’s sales tax rate at 8.5%, Fairview Heights tax rate is 8.35% and Mount Vernon tax rate at 9.5%. If Centralia’s tax rate is increased by .5%, Centralia would be 8.0% and still be below the two nearest communities and still below the major shopping mall in the area.
Sales tax, unlike property tax, captures income from those individuals who come into the community to shop and is not passed on to the businesses or homeowners that would be affected by a property tax increase. It provides a good source of revenue for the City and with it being dedicated to the Fire and Police Departments, it will improve the services provided to the citizens and residents of Centralia.
The sales tax initiative will be on the Ballot on the consolidated Municipal election on April 6th. Take some time, study the facts, and make an informed decision.