If it were up to the handful of people who spoke during a Saturday morning town-hall-style meeting, a sales tax increase for transportation projects would already be in effect.
The decision, however, will be left up to all registered voters in the city, should the Sequim City Council decide to place the measure on the ballot.
If approved by voters, the sales tax in the city of Sequim would increase two-tenths of 1 percent, from 8.4 percent to 8.6 percent, or an extra four cents on a $20 purchase.
The council will decide Aug. 11 whether or not to place the transportation benefit district (sales tax increase) on the Nov. 4 ballot, said the citys public relations consultant Erin Taylor with EnviroIssues. Until then, the consultants findings will be paired with public testimony for a final report.
The Aug. 11 meeting will be a regular city council meeting, held at 6 p.m. in the Sequim Transit Center, 190 W. Cedar St.
About a dozen people commented at the July 26 meeting, most of whom were in favor of voters seeing the tax increase option.
Mary Bell, of Sequim, discussed her support of the plan and the need for street and sidewalk improvements around town.
Traffic around the school is not getting better and with kids coming back in fall it will get worse with the citywide traffic increase, Bell said. Many people from out of the city limits are taking their children to school, so I like this more than a (local improvement district) or any other city-resident-specific tax or charge.
The sales tax increase would affect everyone who shops in Sequim, not just those living in Sequim. City council reports indicate ratios of two out-of-city shoppers to every shopper living in the city.
This can create a tremendous return on a sales tax investment, its like two-to-one and everyone who uses the streets helps pay for the upkeep, said Sequim urban growth resident Pat Clark. I dont enjoy paying more taxes, but citizens must not abdicate the responsibility to leave this and any place better than we found it.
Clallam County Fire District 3 Chief Steve Vogel spoke in support of placing the sales tax increase on the ballot as well.
Big box revenues
Former city councilor Bob Anundson rejected the idea of increasing the sales tax.
The city has already seen a dramatic increase in revenue since the big box stores came in, sales tax is up over 110 percent since 2001, Anundson said. I think you should spend the money you do have and prioritize your operations and your budget. Only then, if the city is in financial trouble, should you ask for a tax increase.
Sequim Mayor Laura Dubois responded to Anundson, citing examples of revenue loss in other areas and the increasing costs of materials and labor.
In 2001 the state eliminated some of our motor vehicle excise tax revenue and the Legislature limited our property tax revenue at a 1 percent increase each year, Dubois said.
City Councilor Ken Hays agreed with Anundson to an extent, stating the elected body plans on reevaluating the budget for 2009, adding that the cuts would not likely be enough to fund projects on the citys six-year transportation improvement plan.
The plan has $25 million in prioritized projects waiting for funding. All projects funded by the tax increase must be listed on the document.
6-year improvement plan
Based on 2007 sales, the tax increase would bring in about $600,000 annually.
Dubois said the city would be able to use the funds directly for a small project, bank the funds over a few years for a larger project or combine them or use as a match for other grants or possible impact fees.
Several people spoke in favor of the tax increase, but critiqued how the project list lacked other needed improvements.
Im seeing more people walking, biking and with mobility assisting scooters and they desperately need better avenues of transportation, said Andrew Shogren. I would like to see more of these types of projects in the plan with those already in the plan gaining a higher priority.
The state law which controls transportation benefit districts indicates once the district is formed and the tax approved by voters, the council must go through a public process to amend the list of projects.
More information about the Transportation Benefit District can be found online at the city of Sequims Web site, www.ci.sequim.wa.us.
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