Chelan Commissioners Discuss Port Authority Ballot Measure Error
A major error in a ballot measure proposed by the Chelan Douglas Port Authority drew discussion at the Chelan County Commission meeting Monday.
The subject was brought up during the public comment period by architect and Cashmere City Council Member Chris Carlson, who appeared before Commissioners remotely.
Carlson said he wanted to bring it up because the error had the potential to massively lower taxes the Port is collecting from property owners in Chelan and Douglas counties.
The Port wants voters to authorize them to collect a property tax of 16.2 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, but the tax rate that appears on the ballot is .162 cents.
Chelan County Commissioner Kevin Overbey told Carlson that they were made aware of the discrepancy last week.
He said the Port also became aware of the issue last week and has been taking whatever corrective action it needs to take internally. Overbey also said the Port seemed to feel as if it was on some solid ground, even though it may not have been accurately reflected on the ballot measure.
Commissioner Tiffany Gering said she’d spoken to a Port commissioner Friday who was confident that many lawyers had looked at the language, and they were very comfortable with it.”
Chelan County Economic Services Director Ron Cridlebaugh says the Port believes the discrepancy can be handled through what's called a "scrivener's error."
"It was a scrivener's error by putting cents per thousand," said Cridlebaugh. "It should have just been a point da da dot to da per thousand, instead of cents. And so, they feel, and their attorney I think feels it's a scrivener's error and can be corrected."
It's widely accepted that courts may correct “scrivener’s errors” if there is proof it was a typographical mistake.
Chelan County Auditor Skip Moore later told KPQ he believes there'll be more involved.
"The Port, I think, is going to have to convince a judge, ultimately, that it was an error, and it's an error that requires the results be thrown out or nullified, and that they will ask the question sometime later to the voters," said Moore.
The tax proposal is on Tuesday's election ballot.
It comes after a bill passed unanimously in the state legislature this year allows the Port Authority to ask for voter approval of a unified tax levy rate on property owners in both counties.
Chelan County’s 2022 tax levy rate is 17-and-a-half cents per $1,000 of assessed value while the Douglas County 2022 tax levy rate is 13.2 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.
The disparity dates back to when Chelan and Douglas County Port Districts were separate entities before consolidation into a regional Port District.
Under the intention of the Port Authority in the ballot measure, the difference of 4.3 percent would be erased under the "rate equalization" with property owners in both counties paying an estimated 16.2 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.