Chehalis City Council Roundup: A Look at the 2023 Budget, Property Tax Levy Increase and Rezones


During its Monday evening meeting, the Chehalis City Council approved a plethora of rezoning requests, including one for the proposed apartment complex on 21st Street, and took a first look at both the 2023 budget proposal and property tax levy increase.


Rezoning Decisions

A total of nine rezoning requests were approved, including the rezoning request for the proposed 52-unit apartment complex owned by K&W Properties LLC that will be built at 2169 Jackson Highway, adjacent to the 21st Street neighborhood.

In a Sept. 21 town hall, many residents of that neighborhood voiced concerns over the proposed apartment complex related to flooding and traffic. According to Chehalis Planning and Building Manager Tammy Baraconi, aside from the rezone approval the city is addressing the concerns voiced at the town hall as well.

“They were just telling me tonight they are working on an update to the traffic study, and since we’ve got that and an updated site plan, we’ll sit down with them (K&W Properties LLC) and see what we can work out,” Baraconi said. “We’ve talked about some possible solutions in-house, we’ve talked about some possible solutions with them, but right now we just need to see the traffic study to make sure that we’re making a decision we can all support.”

The parcel was rezoned from R1, single-family low density, to R4, multi-family high density.

Additionally, ordinances adjusting the city’s Comprehensive Plan Land Use and Housing Elements and the Future Land Use maps were also approved to include the rezoning changes, a historic preservation element and two new zoning classifications.

“The big changes in both of these maps are creating the new zoning classification which is the mixed residential commercial, and then eliminating the essential public facility (classification) and creating the open space government zoning classification,” Baraconi said.

2023 Levy Increases and Budget

Public hearings and first readings were also held on the proposed 2023 budget and property tax levy increase for the city. Chehalis Finance Director Chun Saul gave the council and the public in attendance presentations on both.

She started with the property tax levy increase, explaining that 82.6% of the 2023 proposed budget general fund came from taxes and service fees the city collects.

“Property tax is the second largest revenue source for the general fund and it makes up about 17.6% of the 2023 general fund revenues,” Saul said.

That 17.6% equates to $2,182,487 in the budget.

According to statutes, the maximum regular levy rate for property taxes in Chehalis was $3.325 per $1,000 in assessed value. In 2022, the regular levy rate was actually $1.778 per $1,000 in assessed value.   

Legally the city is allowed a 1% increase over the previous year’s levy. The council chose to take the 1% increase for both property tax and the EMS levy.

“One note is that these increases apply to the city portion of the property tax. The City of Chehalis does not have any control of amounts levied by other agencies,” Saul said.

For example, the Chehalis School District has a property tax rate of $2.906 per $1,000 in assessed value and Lewis County is set at $1.178 per $1,000 in assessed value.

As for the 2023 budget itself, the total set is $32,252,432.

“This is a decrease of $12,025,680 or 28.5% from the 2022 amended budget. Most of the decrease is related to one-time internal transfers included in the 2022 budget,” Saul said.

Of the overall budget, $12,426,963 is earmarked for general fund expenditures, a decrease of $1,045,257 or 7.8% from the 2022 amended budget. After revenues and expenditures are taken into account, the city projects it will have a cash balance of $1,621,113 left in the general fund at the end of next year.

That leftover revenue equates to 13.1% of the 2023 general fund revenue budget.

“As you know, council’s goal is to maintain a minimum of 10% in operating reserves,” added Saul.

As for where the general fund’s expenditures go, a total of 52% goes to the city’s police and fire departments. After that, 12% goes to the city’s parks, 11% to non-departmental agencies, including those responsible for street maintenance, 9% for planning and building, 9% for the city’s administration, 4% for recreation facilities and 3% for municipal courts.

While the budget is close to completion, some adjustments will still need to be made once the city finalizes its new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with its employees, which includes a 4% salary and wage increase. CBA negotiations are still ongoing.