City to keep some sales tax revenue, use money to help with affordable housing

A bill passed in last year’s legislative session allows cities to keep funds for affordable housing by seeking a credit against the state’s share of local sales taxes.

Enumclaw has jumped at the opportunity to receive money to help alleviate troubles with affordable housing.

Members of the city council unanimously passed a resolution that will allow Enumclaw to retain some dollars that would have otherwise flowed into state coffers.

That option was made possible during this year’s session of the state Legislature. House Bill 1406 provided cities the means of keeping funds by seeking a credit against the state’s share of local sales taxes.

A memo to council from City Administrator Chris Searcy noted there is a cap on how much a city can retain. In Enumclaw’s case the maximum would be about $28,000 annually, based on 2019’s estimated sales tax revenues.

The dollars retained by cities can be used for acquiring, rehabilitating, or constructing affordable housing. Another key provision – and this one applies to Enumclaw – allows cities with a population of less than 100,000 to use the new-found funds for rental assistance programs.

With that in mind, the city already has a likely destination for the money. City government typically provides Plateau Outreach Ministries with money, which goes toward rental assistance. To satisfy state requirements, the new funds must go the people whose income falls below 60 percent of area median income.

The Sept. 23 resolution was the first step toward securing the tax dollars, as it only clarified the city’s intent to take advantage of the allowable tax credit. Next up will be passage of an ordinance that puts the plan on the city books.

It was noted that the process does not increase sales tax levels. Rather, it allows cities to keep some of the money that would have headed to Olympia.

In other action during their Sept. 23 meeting, members of the Enumclaw City Council:

• took a key step in a process that will likely see a roundabout constructed at the busy intersection of Semanski Street and Warner Avenue. The city has been eyeing a change to the street configuration, waiting until construction is complete at Enumclaw High School, which sits on the southwest corner of the intersection.

The council approved a contract with SCJ Alliance for nearly $74,000. For that sum, the firm will “prepare construction plans and specifications, and traffic control plans,” according to a staff memo to council.

Currently, drivers on Semanski can travel freely while those on Warner sit at stop signs. An earlier traffic study concluded the present arrangement was insufficient.

• heard a presentation by Public Works Director Jeff Lincoln, who outlined crowded conditions in multiple city buildings. A report had been commissioned that detailed overcrowding and offered possible solutions. There was no action taken.

• appointed Paul Carter to the Position 4 seat on the Enumclaw Planning Commission. His term expires at the end of the year.

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