A 2017 property tax levy increase of 3.49 percent received preliminary approval from the Washington County Board last week, but many homeowners will pay just a few dollars more because new construction has broadened the tax base.

Commissioners voted in favor of the increase, identical to those in 2015 and 2016, to pay for employee compensation and services needed as the county’s population grows.

“Certainly there are needs out there that are unmet,” said Fran Miron, the board chairman. “We’re a conservative board, it’s a conservative levy, and each of us pays our own fair share.”

The county’s tax base has grown 3 percent over the past year, including new construction valued at $363 million. The owner of a median-valued home of $243,200 (up 1.1 percent in value from 2016) would pay about $7 more in county property taxes, an increase of about 1 percent.

The proposed property tax levy for 2017 is $96.1 million. The county’s non-levy revenue is $102.5 million, an increase of 8.94 percent over 2016. Operating expenditures are $165 million, an increase of 5.26 percent, and capital expenditures are $28.5 million, an increase of 7.42 percent.

Commissioners will vote on a final budget in December.

Kevin Giles


Residents to vote on community center

Blaine voters will decide whether the city should borrow $29.4 million to build a community center and a separate senior center, now that the City Council has approved adding the item to the Nov. 8 general election ballot.

A citizens’ task force that had studied the possibility of building a community center recommended the question go before the voters. According to a 2015 survey commissioned by the task force, 57 percent of Blaine residents supported a new center and more than nine in 10 said they would use it.

City leaders have considered the idea of building a community center for nearly two decades, including a failed referendum in 1998. The city has grown from a population of about 45,000 to more than 60,000 today.



Cuts proposed for council chambers remodel

Woodbury city staffers have found nearly $220,000 in possible cuts in a proposed remodeling of the City Council chambers that council members had thought far too expensive.

A budget of $325,000 was approved in December for the project, but that figure jumped to nearly $675,000 as staffers began refining the plans and considering options such as expansion of the audience area and raising staff seating to the level of the council members.

The bigger sum got a chilly reception from the council, with one member likening it to the cost of a whole new house.

City spokeswoman Megan Beck said the council opted during an informal workshop to cut door and window security improvements, keep the chambers the same size and simplify remodeling of adjacent conference rooms. Those trims would bring the price tag down to $514,000.


Cottage Grove

City names 17 to plan its next two decades

Seventeen people have been named to a new group to help plot the future of Cottage Grove.

The City Council appointed them to a steering committee for a “community engagement project.” They will listen to residents tell them what they envision for the city over the next couple decades.

Members are: Regina Boston, Jess Davison, Suzanne Elliot, Bart Fischer, Erik Holtan, Melissa Jungbauer, Joe Kovarik, Michael Laverdure, Lisa Maxwell, Jennifer Nedry, Tod Oswald, Eric Radel, Sandi Scott, Lisa Studiner, Dan Sullivan, Nicole Toni and Jessica Vadnais.

David Peterson


Red Rock Square housing moves ahead

Construction of Red Rock Square, an affordable apartment complex with 42 units, moved forward last week when the Washington County Regional Rail Authority sold the land where it will be built.

Red Rock Square will be constructed just west of the Newport Transit Station, which opened in 2014. The new landowner is the Washington County Community Development Agency (CDA), which has a plan to redevelop several blocks around the transit station with housing and new retail and office space. It bought the land for $552,900.

The affordable housing project is the first element of that plan, with construction expected to begin later this year.

“This will be the first new multifamily housing in the city of Newport in over 30 years,” said Jan Lucke, the county’s transportation manager.

Kevin Giles