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Here is the article about a proposed Transportation Benefit District the City Council is currently discussing:
Rocky Roads Lead to a Solution
By Catherine Anderson
Travel the main streets of Granite Falls, and you’re likely to dodge a pothole or two, and see fading crosswalk and parking stripes. The side streets and roads are in worse condition, and some alleys can throw your car out of alignment. It’s a common problem in most Washington cities these days, because tax revenues are simply not enough to pay for routine
The Granite Falls City Council has been looking for solutions. During their special session on Wednesday, February 26, 2015 they talked about creating a Transportation Benefit District.
A Transportation Benefit District (TBD) is a legal entity which exists for the purpose of generating money to pay for improvements and maintenance of streets and roads within a defined geographical location. In the case of Granite Falls, the location would be defined as the city boundary.
The practice of creating a TBD has become a popular solution in several Washington cities needing to shore up weak street funds, including Marysville, Arlington, Stanwood, Snohomish, and Everett.
City Administrator Brent Kirk explained the importance of establishing a local TBD, saying “We only make about $68,000 a year in gas taxes that go into the Streets Fund, but we spend about $135,000 annually for a bare bones level of service. We have about $200,000 in reserves in the Streets Fund, but this fund continues to spend more than it generates in annual revenues, the reserves will be gone in three to four years if we don't do something to help fund even the current services being provided, which I feel are inadequate for the transportation needs of this community.”
The depletion isn’t something new. Kirk said, “The Streets Fund has lost money every year since I was hired in 2009. We can't ignore the problem any longer.”
According to Washington State law, there are two methods a TBD can use to generate revenues. The first is to implement an annual vehicle fee of up to $20.00. Establishing this fee does not require voter approval. The second method does require voter approval, and involves special taxes, such as the 0.02% sales and use tax Marysville’s voters approved in April, 2014.
Kirk said a vehicle fee levy would raise more revenue than a special sales tax. Based on a conservative estimation of 3,000 vehicles registered in the City according to the DMV, Kirk projects an estimate of $60,000 in revenue annually from a license tab fee of $20 per vehicle. It’s not the perfect solution, but it will certainly help.
The frustrated looks on the Mayor and Councilmember’s faces made their reaction clear. Mayor Josh Golston said, “I have had heartburn about this, but it’s either let our streets decline or try to find a solution.”
Councilmember Tom ‘TC’ Collins agreed. “I’m not happy about it, but we’ve got to do something.”
Councilmember Tess Greene asked how time consuming it would be for city staff to administrate a TBD. City attorney Grant Weed explained that the additional work needed would be “almost transparent to the work they have to do already.”
Councilmember Suzi Ashworth questioned Kirk, asking about other possible revenue streams. Kirk told her that because of Washington State revenue restrictions and gas taxes that have not been raised since 1996, there is no other current option to take care of needed street repairs and maintenance.
Kirk said Granite Falls has no emission testing requirement, like several surrounding cities do at a cost of $20.00. With a TBD vehicle fee, he said “You’d be putting $20.00 a year into roads, rather than emission testing.”
TBD revenues from any source must be used for improvement or maintenance of streets and roads within the defined district.
The City’s next step would be to pass an ordinance creating a Transportation Benefit District and hold a public hearing. After that, the Council would decide the amount of the additional vehicle fee, and when to begin implementation.
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