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City mulls utility tax for port users

At the first Sunnyside special study session on Monday, Aug. 18, to discuss proposed budget cuts, city manager Eric Swansen questioned why Port of Sunnyside wastewater treatment plant users aren't being assessed a 6 percent utility tax.

According to Port Manager Amber Hansen, since the port began treating wastewater in 1974, there's never been a utility tax levied upon users.

"As far as we're aware, there is no conscious decision to either exempt us or include us," said Hansen. "It was just an oversight."

Now, she said, "They have realized they have never levied or collected the utility tax on the port's users."

Hansen said the Sunnyside City Council may choose to follow a suggestion from Swansen to levy and collect the tax, which would create about $200,000 in city revenues in 2009.

If that's the case, said Hansen, "We don't have any choice in it." She pointed out that the city has an ordinance pertaining to the subject matter, of which the port is not exempt.

"There's nothing in the ordinance that would exempt us from collecting it, that we can see."

She added, "(The city) is looking for ways to increase their revenues and this has been an oversight for a good number of years."

She said it's important to note that the utility tax isn't something the port owes, it's a tax levied on business by the city of Sunnyside for the use of utilities/services, in this case the port's wastewater treatment plant services.

"It doesn't impact our budget in any way, shape or form. The tax dollars don't belong to the Port. We (would just be) a collection point," she said.

The impact on the port would be that the verbiage on billing statements would change to reflect the utility tax. She said she assumes the port would then issue the city a quarterly check.

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