Sequim considers asking voters to renew 10-year Transportation Benefit District tax

SEQUIM — The Sequim City Council soon will consider putting the Transportation Benefit District tax before voters again this November.

The district has generated more than $4 million in revenue for street projects in Sequim since 2010.

Voters had approved a two-tenths of 1 percent sales tax in November 2009 (58.15 percent, or 1,373 yes votes, to 41.85 percent, 988) that helps cover costs of such projects as rehabilitating roads, building new sidewalks and improving street lighting.

City Council members gave the OK without an official vote Jan. 22 for city staff to investigate costs and more information for putting a renewal of the district on the 2018 general election ballot Nov. 6.

The Transportation Benefit District’s tax expires Dec. 31, 2019. If renewed it would run through Dec. 31, 2029.

Sequim Public Works Director David Garlington said the city has until late 2019 to renew the 10-year tax but he suggested bringing it to voters sooner.

He said this November election would see more people turn out and cost $2,000 versus nearly $20,000 for a special election.

City Attorney Kristina Nelson-Gross said if the renewal were to fail this year, the city could try again in 2019 until the deadline expires.

City Councilman Bob Lake said he’s “a proponent of the sooner, the better.”

Sequim City Manager Charlie Bush said city staff has until this summer to make a decision but that staff members likely will talk to the council before that.

Garlington said city staff will host information sessions leading up to a vote, which has not been scheduled. Councilman Ted Miller said with the renewal the city has an advantage that the tax will remain at the same level.

Garlington said the city also has multiple projects to show off its impact too.

“At that time, it was just a thought,” Garlington said. “Now it’s a reality.”

Sequim voters narrowly defeated the tax when it was first proposed in November 2008 with 50.91 percent (1,701) opposed versus 49.09 percent (1,640) favoring it.

Since it was approved, funds have paid for dozens of projects including overlaying River Road, reconstructing pavement on McCurdy Road, North Seventh Avenue and West Prairie Street.

The Transportation Benefit District’s sales tax has increased significantly from nearly $314,000 in 2010, its first collection year, to top the $600,000 mark for the first time in 2015, and to more than $700,000 last year.

City staff estimate about two-thirds of the district’s revenue comes from residents living outside of city limits. From 2011 to 2017, the district also provided the highest average of funding for city street projects, at about 29 percent annually, Garlington said.

Last year, district taxes paid $561,000 toward pavement preservation, $100,000 to crack sealing and $10,500 to improving the Blake Avenue sidewalk.

Garlington said converting two streetlights on Sequim Avenue and on North Fifth Avenue to LED lights (at a cost of about $71,000) has reduced electricity usage by about 44 percent from 2013 to 17.

As part of the Transportation Improvement Plan for this year, the district tax helps offset costs for projects such as $537,000 for pavement rehabilitation and $157,000 for improving Brackett Road to Hendrickson Road on North Ninth Avenue.

Mayor Dennis Smith said with the number projects finished, “People would be more receptive to it now. I don’t think they’ll turn it down.”

For more information, visit www.sequimwa.gov or call 360-683-4908.

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Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].

This short stretch of North Brown Road from Fir Street to Willow Street, seen in mid-2015, is one of many roadways repaired through funds created by the City of Sequim’s Transportation Benefit District, which charges two-tenths of 1 percent sales tax on purchases specifically for transportation improvement projects. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

This short stretch of North Brown Road from Fir Street to Willow Street, seen in mid-2015, is one of many roadways repaired through funds created by the City of Sequim’s Transportation Benefit District, which charges two-tenths of 1 percent sales tax on purchases specifically for transportation improvement projects. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

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