Port Angeles council to discuss street tax

PORT ANGELES — City council members have decided it’s not too early to talk about increasing the sales tax or boosting driver-license-renewal fees for 2018 to fund Port Angeles street maintenance and repairs.

Other options they will discuss at a 5 p.m. work session Tuesday at City Hall include increasing the property tax levy and imposing an annual vehicle fee of $40 to $100.

The funding avenues are being explored as part of mulling establishment of a transportation benefit district (TBD), which the city of Sequim has had in place for several years.

Port Angeles City Council members were advised in a 2017 staff preliminary budget report earlier this fall that they should consider establishing the district in 2018.

On Tuesday, they will begin fleshing out options that include a $20 license renewal fee and a 0.2 percent sales and use tax, which is Sequim’s funding mechanism of choice.

The sales tax increase must be approved by a simple majority of voters.

“The status quo will just continue with the deterioration of the streets,” Craig Fulton, public works and utilities director, said last week.

“We’re looking for some guidance from the council on which way to proceed.”

Fulton said a TBD would not solve all of the street and alley issues facing the city.

But he said it would help improve city byways that are replete with “poor” ratings under the widely employed “StreetSaver” computer-based street management system, which uses a Pavement Condition Index.

“When you get into the PCI category of poor and very poor, you are in a situation where extensive rehabilitation or complete replacement of pavement is required,” Fulton said Friday in an email.

Sequim’s 10-year, 0.2 percent sales tax that funds its TBD generated $488,000 in 2016, about half of overall street funding, City Manager Charlie Bush said Friday.

“It’s almost like a user fee for people who come here and shop, to help offset the impact they have on our streets,” Bush said.

Sequim City Engineer Matt Klontz also said the city uses the sales tax proceeds as leverage to gain grants for paving and fixing roads that the city has difficulty funding.

Bush said Sequim residents could vote on renewing the 0.2 percent sales tax in 2018 for collection beginning anew in 2019.

Port Angeles Chief Financial Officer Byron Olson said 0.2 percent sales tax imposed in Port Angeles would generate about $600,000 to $700,000 in 2017 based on 2016 sales tax revenues.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at paul.gottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

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