Prop 1 aims to pay for road fix

Everyone wants a smooth ride when rolling over city streets. The only question comes when deciding how to pay for the labor and materials needed to patch cracks and fill potholes.

The city of Enumclaw is proposing a long-term solution for its inadequate roadways, but it would require a “yes” vote during the Nov. 3 general election.

The city’s Proposition 1, if passed, would bump Enumclaw’s sales tax rate by one-tenth of 1 percent. The additional tax money would come from anyone making a taxable retail purchase within the city limits. Collections would begin on New Year’s Day 2016 and continue for 10 years.

The problem

The city freely admits two things: one, that there’s a long laundry list of pavement to be repaired, whether it’s a simple repair, an overlay or total reconstruction; and two, that the money for such work simply doesn’t exist.

Historically, money for street repairs came from the city’s general fund. Those dollars have been spread thin and the still-recent recession made things tighter than ever. Money for the general fund comes primarily from property taxes and real estate excise taxes.

With budgets stretched thin, road maintenance hasn’t kept pace with road deterioration.

Presently, the city estimates there is a backlog of approximately $3.5 million worth of road work needed but unfunded.

A partial solution

Like many neighboring cities and towns, Enumclaw formed a Transportation Benefit District after such a move was authorized by the state Legislature. The TBD is confined to the city limits and is governed by the seven members of the Enumclaw City Council, acting as an independent taxing district.

In accordance with rules set by the Legislature, the TBD in February 2014 imposed a $20 vehicle license fee. This began in September 2014 and aims to provide about $210,000 annually for street repairs.

Regardless of November’s outcome, the $20 license fee will continue.

Long-term solution

To provide a stable, ongoing flow of money to city street repairs, the Transportation Benefit District is now forwarding Proposition 1 to voters.

A key selling point is that the burden for paying for streets is shared by anyone traveling through town and making a purchase, not just city residents.

Proposition 1, if passed, would increase Enumclaw’s local sales tax rate to 8.7 percent and generate approximately $250,000 annually. Money is earmarked specifically for road repairs and the additional tax would be collected for a decade.

The additional tax would generate $1 for every $1,000 spent.

Moving the sales tax to 8.7 percent would keep Enumclaw in line with nearby cities: Sumner and Bonney Lake are at 8.8 percent, while Maple Valley and Covington are at 8.6. On the extreme high end are the 9.5 percent sales tax assessed in Auburn and 9.4 percent in Puyallup; on the low end is Buckley with its 7.9 percent tax rate, the lowest in the area.

What roads get repairs?

The city has identified a lengthy list of roadways in need of work, likely to see repairs funded by Proposition 1.

The list is available on the city website, www.cityofenumclaw.net. Click the “vote” button on the home page.