Buckley to talk about tax for roads

Buckley residents pay an additional $20 every time they license their vehicles, with the extra money going directly toward city street repairs. But would city roads be better served if a local sales tax increase was poured directly into pavement?

That’s the question to be debated the evening of July 29 when members of the Buckley City Council – meeting in their dual role of the local Transportation Benefit District – host a public hearing in the municipal Multipurpose Building. The session is slated to begin at 7 p.m.

The entire street issue begins with the realization that existing funding for roads follows an antiquated formula, according to Buckley Mayor Pat Johnson. Gas taxes have been collected and distributed, but – for a variety of reasons – the monetary supply no longer meets the demand.

To bridge the funding gap, the state authorized cities, towns and counties two options. First, individual jurisdictions can impose a $20 on license renewals, with the extra money used solely for road improvements. Buckley took that step about a year ago and, after all the bureaucratic legwork was done, started receiving money in February.

Johnson said the Buckley City Council imposed the $20 fee partly due to a belief that Pierce County would do the same. If the county acted first, Buckley residents would have paid the $20 but the city would have received a small portion of that sum.

The same situation occurred in Enumclaw, where the council imposed a license tab fee before King County could do the same.

The second legislatively-approved option for cities is to increase the local sales tax rate by two-tenths of 1 percent.

The Buckley City Council has talked about option, but wants to float the idea in a public hearing first.

There are advantages to the city with the sales tax option, Johnson explained.

First, money for city streets comes from a bigger pool. Anyone purchasing goods or services in the town would pay into the pot; with the existing license tab fee, only Buckley residents support street improvements. Second, the sum collected for roadway repairs would be larger, Johnson said.

The down side is that it’s a tax increase and voters nearly everywhere are turning thumbs down on any proposal that raises taxes.

Oral comments will be taken during the public hearing on the 29th, but citizens also can submit their opinions in writing. Comments can be mailed to City Administrator Dave Schmidt, P.O. Box 1960, Buckley, 98321. Or, comments can be emailed to city@cityofbuckley.com. Either way, comments must be received by 5 p.m. on July 28.