When it comes to Enumclaw’s city streets, there are areas of unanimous agreement. For instance, certain streets are in bad shape and getting worse; also, anyone who motors around town would appreciate a smoother ride.
The sticky part comes with the dollars and cents required to patch some, rebuild others and, generally, make driving a more pleasant experience.
Looking for advice from Enumclaw’s citizenry, members of the local Transportation Improvement Board are reaching out – asking if the public would be willing to pony up the funds needed to mount a viable street maintenance program. And, if so, how those additional dollars should be collected.
Toward that end, the city is posting a brief survey on its website. It’s a nonbinding series of questions the TBD can use when crafting a plan for roadway repairs.
Some brief history
Washington lawmakers, realizing the system for funding street projects was outdated and inefficient, acted several years ago to give cities, town and counties a new funding mechanism – a Transportation Benefit District. TBDs are independent taxing districts that can raise money either with, or without, approval of the public.
Those sitting on a TBD board can independently implement a $20 fee on vehicle license tabs. The fee can be higher, but it takes voter approval; Seattle recently attempted a $60 fee, an effort shot down by voters.
Another popular option is an increase in the local sales tax. A TBD can request a hike up to two-tenths of 1 percent, but it requires voter approval.
Enumclaw’s City Council created a TBD earlier this year. The district follows the city limits and the board consists of the seven members of the council.
The TBD board members implemented a $20 license fee, just as leaders in Buckley and Carbonado have done. The money will soon start flowing into city coffers.
Revenues vs. needs
In Enumclaw, the $20 fee is expected to generate about $210,000 annually, with revenues earmarked solely for street projects.
On the other side of the ledger, the city’s street needs are pegged at about $550,000 per year. That figure is seven years old, the result of a comprehensive street study conducted on the city’s behalf.
Realizing that streets aren’t getting any better, members of the TBD board spent the better part of two July meetings discussing options for bumping up the revenue stream.
Most recent discussion
During the July 28 meeting of the TBD board, most of the talk centered on a potential increase in the local sales tax – not at the .2 percent level, but half that amount.
Starting the conversation was Chance LaFleur, who noted between $440,000 and $450,000 could be generated annually with the .1 percent sales tax hike. A benefit of that approach, LaFleur said, is the money would come from everyone purchasing goods or services in Enumclaw, rather than local folks coming up with the full amount.
Board member Hoke Overland supported the concept.
“I think the taxpayers would appreciate that we’re being wise with the use of their money and not over-reaching,” Overland said.
Jim Hogan, who serves as chairman of the TBD board, added his support to LaFleur’s comments.
The board spent time weighing the impact a sales tax increase would have on the business community, particularly on automobile dealers. Opinions were mixed.
Darrell Dickson said he had met with sales managers who reported Enumclaw’s lower sales tax rate is an integral part of their marketing strategy.
Overland countered that Enumclaw’s rate, even with a .1 percent increase, would remain lower than Sumner’s.
Looking at the possibility of a tax increase, Overland said “we’re still giving our car dealers a competitive advantage.”
Overland noted that when he campaigned for his seat on the City Council, citizens made their desires clear. “There’s no doubt in my mind, they want roads fixed,” he said.
As the meeting dragged toward its conclusion, Overland offered a motion directing city administration to draft a resolution that would lead to putting a measure on an upcoming ballot – a measure that would increase the local sales tax by one-tenth of 1 percent.
That motion failed, with Dickson, Mike Sando, Juanita Carstens and Morgan Irwin voting it down. The motion was supported by Overland, Hogan and LaFleur.
Dickson then offered a motion directing administration to reach out to the community and take feedback regarding options for funding street improvements. The motion passed unanimously.
The survey found on the city website is an offshoot of that directive.