North Bend wants money for roadwork
October 26, 2011
By Dan Catchpole
Ballot proposal targets out-of-town shoppers
North Bend voters are being asked to approve a sales tax increase to raise money to pay for street maintenance. The 0.2 percent increase is expected to bring in about $400,000 a year, according to city estimates.
Supporters say that it will save the city money in the long run and will be paid for mostly by shoppers from outside the city. Opponents say that it is an added tax burden during hard economic times.
If approved by voters, the proposition would raise the city’s sales tax from 8.6 percent to 8.8 percent. Residents would pay $10 more in sales tax on $5,000 of retail purchases, which would not include groceries. It would expire after 10 years.
Money collected by the tax would come, in large part, from shoppers at North Bend Premium Outlets, City Administrator Duncan Wilson said.
The proposition was approved by the city’s Transportation Benefit District board of directors Aug. 2. The board consists of City Council members.
The proposition stipulates that any revenue from the tax must be used on projects in the city’s Transportation Improvement Plan.
North Bend resident Sherwood Korssjoen helped write the statement for the proposition in the voters’ guide, and said that delaying roadwork will only cost the city more in the future.
“The more that infrastructure is damaged, the further you have to get into it to repair it,” Korssjoen said.
The author of the statement against the proposition, Mark Dilger, said that the tax increase will hurt local businesses.
But if passed, North Bend’s sales tax would be only marginally higher than in Snoqualmie, which has an 8.6 percent sales tax.
“The TBD’s proposed projects, like lighted cross walks and handrails, are nice improvements, for some day, but they do not address concerns that many of our business owners have for bringing in more business now,” Dilger wrote in the voters’ guide statement against the measure.
Dilger lives in unincorporated King County and cannot vote on the measure.
North Bend’s revenues from taxes, fees and grants haven’t kept pace with the rising cost of maintaining transportation infrastructure, Public Works Director Ron Garrow said.
North Bend has paid for some road improvement projects with grants, but they are expected to dry up in the future, Garrow said.
Population growth and annexations have pushed North Bend into competing for grants with larger cities, making it less competitive.
Transportation benefit districts have become an option for cities looking to bolster flagging funds for transportation.
At least 14 other cities, including Snoqualmie, have created a district.
Most existing districts have bypassed voters and opted to impose car tab fees. Under state law, a district can charge up to $20 per registered vehicle without voter approval.
In Leavenworth, the city’s district increased the sales tax by 0.2 percent, raising the combined rate to 8.3 percent.
“If we’re going to do this, we wanted to put it to a vote,” Wilson said before the board approved the proposition.
At the time, Councilman Chris Garcia likened the proposition to asking residents for a vote of confidence in city government.