Update: Final ballot count on Nov. 25 remains same, measure passes without need for recount
“Although the language of the tax is quite open-ended, I would like to assure people that the entire amount we collect in this tax will be entirely expended on Criminal Justice fees now and into the future.” Tonasket Mayor Patrick Plumb
OKANOGAN – If Tonasket’s Criminal Justice measure were a horserace, it would be a photo finish and it looks as though the self-imposed tax of 0.1 percent has won not by a nose, but by a whisker.
As of the last vote count, taken Friday, Nov. 14, the measure which would increase the sales tax to raise revenue for criminal justice and fire protection costs, was leading by a single vote out of the 273 votes cast. The election day count had Proposition 1, a Sales and Use Tax Levy trailing by 12 votes. The following Friday’s vote still had it behind, before this last count pushed the measure across the finish line, evoking surprise and several comments from Tonasket’s Mayor, Patrick Plumb.
In an all mail election, and with the increased use of the Tonasket City Hall ballot drop box, it is premature to call any local elections until all the ballots have been processed at the Auditor’s Office, according to Plumb.
“I have heard at times that more than half of the ballots are received by the Auditor’s office after 8 p.m. on election day,” said Plumb. “I am surprised at the outcome of the election, and I appreciate the voters making the sacrifice to help us meet our obligations to provide Criminal Justice services to Tonasket.”
The mayor added, “Although the language of the tax is quite open-ended, I would like to assure people that the entire amount we collect in this tax will be entirely expended on Criminal Justice fees now and into the future.”
According to Plumb, the estimates the city was presented with were in the $17,000 to $21,000 range and the city budgeted at least $30,000 for payments to Okanogan County for its share of the use of the jail for those arrested in Tonasket and for the associated costs of housing them in the county jail. Tonasket also pays Okanogan County for dispatch fees which is also a part of Criminal Justice fees so that Tonasket officers can be dispatched to police calls.
If the measure passes Tonasket will get 85 percent of what the tax collects and the county gets the other 15 percent. The total amount estimated based on previous years is around 30,000 and the city will get about $25,500 of that amount. One-third of that must be spent on Criminal Justice and Fire Protection, according to the mayor.
“So suffice it to say that 100 percent of our collection will be to pay other entities for services provided. This will also allow us to free up general fund money to start paying toward capital purchases for the future of our city,” said Plumb.
Since he has been associated with Tonasket city government, Criminal Justice costs have consistently went up, according to the mayor.
“As you can guess (Criminal Justice Services) are not revenue generating, so it takes away our ability to continue offering service to the city or invest in our future. The city would like to thank everyone for participating in their civic duty of voting,” he said.
There one remaining ballot count scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 25 at 1 p.m., the same day as final election certification, showed no changes in the election’s result,according to the auditor’s office.
When asked if there would be a recount because of the single digit margin, the mayor said he didn’t think so.
“From what I have understood in the past, there are no recounts for tax levies. So as long as the current vote total as of today stays the same, 137 to 136, then it will be certified as passed. As I have talked to the auditor in the past, there are always ballots that need updated signatures, so that could possibly influence the final vote total,” said Plumb.
The mayor said people’s votes are important and that he is always available to help those who want to register to vote in the future.
“It is easier than you think, and gives you a direct impact on the elections such as these that are the difference of one vote. Every vote counts!” said Plumb.