PORT ANGELES — The Port Angeles City Council has created a transportation benefit district as a new pathway to funding road repairs.
Council members on Tuesday unanimously created the district, which they will govern, as a first step toward putting a funding measure before voters in the Aug. 1 primary election.
The proposal, which needs a simple majority for passage, would increase the retail sales tax by 0.2 percent Jan. 1, 2018, a hike equal to 2 cents on every $10 spent.
It would increase the sales tax within the city limits to 8.6 percent, or to 43 cents on every $5 spent by anyone, both residents and visitors, who spends money on items subject to the tax in the city.
Council members saw it as a way to tax the visitors who use city streets.
“This is an extraordinary opportunity for the citizens of Port Angeles who have had this burden on our shoulders,” Mayor Patrick Downie said.
“Millions of visitors” contribute to the deterioration of roads, he said.
“This enables literally millions of people to help us do what we need to do.”
The proposed tax increase would generate an estimated $600,000 to $700,000 annually, Byron Olson, former city chief financial officer, said in December.
If approved by voters in August, it would be available for city road projects by 2019, Kathryn Neal, public works and utilities engineering manager, said Wednesday.
Proceeds from the 0.2 percent hike would fund road maintenance and repairs and, just as importantly, be used as leverage to generate government funds “to do major repairs we all would like to see,” City Manager Dan McKeen told council members.
Neal told council members the city’s 120 miles of streets and 40 miles of alleys are suffering from a lack of funding for maintenance.
“The most frequent complaint we get is about the condition of our streets and our alleys,” Neal said. “Our alleys are in especially poor condition.
“Something really must change and really must improve the way we are able to take care of our streets.”
Council members voted on the district during 20 minutes that included a public hearing and brief council discussion.
Port Angeles resident John Ralston of Port Angeles was the only resident to speak during the public hearing.
In response to Ralson’s questions, McKeen said the tax increase would be eliminated after 10 years unless voters approved it again.
A 0.2 percent hike is the maximum increase that the transportation benefit district can levy, McKeen said.
“The council could reduce or eliminate that,” McKeen said.
“It’s a fraction of what literally is needed to bring the roads up to a good condition.”
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].