Voters rejecting proposed sales tax for Lewis County 911 Center


In July, the Lewis County commissioners approved adding a ballot initiative to the November election proposing to fund the 911 center with a sales tax of two cents on every $10. 

On Tuesday night, the measure was failing with 6,768 of voters, or 51.53 percent, opposed to the measure and 6,367 voters, or 48.57 percent, in favor.

The preliminary count included the results of 13,338 ballots. The Lewis County Auditor’s Office estimated there were still 701 ballots left to count on election night, with an estimated total voter turnout of 24.15%.

The next ballot count will be released at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 8. Election certification will take place on Nov. 28.

The initiative had support from the City of Centralia, the Fire Chiefs Association and the 911 Communications Combined User Committee for Lewis County. Some  Chehalis City councilors have been reluctant to sign a letter of support for the initiative.

If the “yes” votes win it, Lewis County will begin collecting a .2% sales tax in order to fund its 911 call center, which is a rate of two cents for every $10. If the majority of ballots say “no,” nothing will change. 

Between Washington’s minimum sales tax, 6.5%, and the county’s, 1.3%, unincorporated county residents currently pay a 7.8% sales tax, according to the Department of Revenue for Washington state. Some cities also collect a percentage. Sales tax rates in Centralia and Chehalis are currently 8.2%, according to the Department of Revenue’s sales tax rate search tool. 

As the former 911 director, Randy Pennington spoke in support of the sales tax on earlier this year, noting that it would charge shoppers and tourists, unlike levies, which only tax property owners.

“Why should the citizens of Lewis County be forced to pay for the whole system when you have a higher percentage of the calls … (coming from) people from Oregon, Florida. They’re coming all through here, they’re not paying a dime for the system,” Pennington said. “This is a way to help them pay for the system.”

In an interview in August, Lewis County Commissioner Scott Brummer, who represents east county, said the initiative was first proposed “well over a decade” ago. 

“It has taken a great deal of effort to get to the point where folks are in agreement,” Brummer said, later adding, “Those that are not (in support of the tax), it’s not because they don’t believe the 911 system needs this money. They do. They’re concerned that if we have a 911 tax, it may limit their ability to get levies and future funding.”