Enumclaw street tax increase on November ballot

Enumclaw voters will be asked to bump up the city’s sales tax rate in exchange for smoother streets.

Members of the Enumclaw City Council – acting in their role as the local Transportation Benefit District – voted July 27 to place a tax measure on November’s general election ballot. The TBD’s three-step process included approval of the formal statement that will appear in the King County Voters Pamphlet and authorization of a fact sheet; additionally, two citizens were tabbed to write the “pro” comments that will be included in the Voters Pamphlet.

Voters will be asked to increase the local sales tax rate by one-tenth of 1 percent, with collections earmarked solely for ongoing street repairs. The proposed tax hike equates to an additional 10 cents for every $100 spent or a dollar for every $1,000 in purchases. The additional tax, if approved, would not apply to non-taxed items like food.

The Transportation Benefit District has the authority to collect money in several ways and members of the TBD board have already implemented one of their options. In February 2014, the decision was made to collect an additional $20 on every vehicle licensed in Enumclaw; that fee, which went into effect in September 2014, generates approximately $210,000 annually.

Should the sales tax increase be approved in November, the $20 license fee will remain. The State Legislature, during this year’s session, allowed those collections to jump to $40 annually but the local TBD is choosing the tax increase as an alternative.

Historically, Enumclaw has paid for street work from its general fund, which is supported by property taxes and real estate excise tax dollars.

According to a city-authorized fact sheet, “These revenues have not been keeping pace with expenses and have resulted in cutbacks in core city services and less maintenance of city streets.”

Members of the Transportation Benefit District noted a tax hike – which collects money from anyone spending money in town – was a more balanced approach than increasing the license fee, which collects only from local residents.

The tax increase, if approved in November, would generate an estimated $250,000 annually and be in effect for 10 years.

As part of their decision-making process, members of the TBD looked as sales tax rates found in neighboring cities. Enumclaw’s rate would jump to 8.7 percent with the proposed hike. By contrast, Buckley sits at 7.9 percent; Black Diamond and Covington are at 8.6 percent; and both Bonney Lake and Sumner collect at a rate of 8.8 percent. Some of the highest sales tax rates are found in Puyallup, 9.4 percent, and Auburn, 9.5 percent.

As a final item during the July 27 TBD meeting, members gave their blessing to Rich Curtin and Pamela Harding, who volunteered to write the “pro” statement in the Voters Pamphlet. The city had advertised in The Courier-Herald for citizens to provide statements on both sides of the tax issue. No one volunteered to write a “con” statement.