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Marysville residents will decide fate of public safety tax

 

Christopher Andersson

Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring talks about the public safety tax measure on the Aug. 2 ballot during a community meeting on July 18.

Marysville voters will vote in the upcoming primary election on a sales tax measure for the city which would fund more police officers.

The measure, Proposition 1 for the City of Marysville, is on the Aug. 2 primary election ballot.

If approved, an additional 0.1 percent sales tax would generate an estimated $750,000 in revenue annually.

The city would receive 85 percent of those funds with the county receiving 15 percent.

Those funds would go toward hiring one full-time sergeant and four full-time officers, as well as the equipment and vehicles necessary for those hires, said Marysville Police Chief Rick Smith.

"The benefits of five new officers for us are huge," he said. "We're at a place right now where we've done everything we can, and we'll continue to do everything we can because that's what we're charged with."

Smith was also concerned about burnout from overworked officers currently. Because the city has one of the lowest ratios of officer per population they answer many more calls per year than most Snohomish County agencies, he said.

"For us it's about reducing crime and being proactive," Smith said, adding he hopes the additional officers will increase the amount of time officers can be out on the street preventing crime before it happens.

About 29 percent of a Marysville police officer's time was spent on proactive policing in 2014, Smith said. That number has been trending downward in recent years, but he hopes new officers can improve it.

While state law does not mandate that the funds go to public safety, the Marysville City Council has passed an action stating they will use the money only for that purpose.

"Your City Council wanted to give you assurances that 'if you pass this, our intention is not to use it for roads or other things, we're going to use it for public safety,'" said Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring.

A recent scientific survey that was sent out to citizens said that residents prioritize public safety, said Nehring.

"I don't think it was a real surprise to us, but it does confirm that public safety is the top priority of the citizens of Marysville," he said.

"If you don't do that well, it's not likely you're going to have a community that feels real positive with how things are going," he said.

Continuing population growth will make that harder, said Smith. Some estimates put the city at a population of 88,000 by 2035.

"If you've looked at the modeling, all the growth is coming into the north end," he said, because while some areas in the south of Snohomish County are land-locked or crowded, Marysville is not.

"For us it's about ensuring that we're responsible and sustainable in the future," said Smith.

City officials wanted to add a sales tax as opposed to other kinds of taxes so that it wouldn't put all the burden on the Marysville taxpayer, said Nehring.

"Crime isn't just a product of what happens in our city, it comes from other entities around the city," he said. A sales tax will provide revenue from people from outside the city as well.

Snohomish County voters will also be voting on a similar measure that will add a 0.2 percent sales tax, which the county plans to use to increase their own staff and to support those battling drug addiction.

Cities in the county would receive 40 percent of the revenue from that tax, which will be close to the amount that Marysville would receive from their own measure, said Nehring.

 

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