Lynnwood Transportation Benefit District may submit ballot measure in the fall

great dealThe Lynnwood Transportation Benefit District (TBD) Board appears to be leaning toward putting on a ballot measure for the general election in November.

The make-up of the ballot measure to fund transportation improvements and maintenance has yet to be hammered out, but a consensus of Boardmembers seemsd to favor going back to the voters for some type of sales tax increase.

The TBD’s Proposition 1, which would have raised sales tax 0.2 percent, failed by a 53-47 percent margin last November.

Staff indicated that the City needs about $4 million a year in order to maintain and improve roads in Lynnwood. Six proposals, ranging from postponing a decision/no action to a 0.2 percent sales tax increase ($4 million) were presented in written materials by City staff during a meeting on May 11.

An increase in the sales tax was seen as a way for the City to collect money from non-residents, who drive on the City’s streets, but who do not pay the $20 vehicle tab fee that Lynnwood residents currently pay.

“Sales taxes spread the burden in taking care of our roads to people who use the road and don’t live in Lynnwood,” Boardmember M. Christopher Boyer said.

Two complicating factors are the possibilities that Community Transit and Sound Transit soon may be going to the voters with tax increase proposals of their own. Community Transit is pushing the state legislature for the right to submit transportation ballot measures and Sound Transit is talking about sales tax, property tax and vehicle tab fee proposals.

Board President Loren Simmonds expressed some concerns about the impact that potential Community Transit and Sound Transit ballot measures would have on a Lynnwood’s TBD’s ballot measure.

“I’m not sure we can come out ahead with those two big pieces of competition,” Simmonds said.

Boyer said that he felt the most responsible thing for the Board to do is to go again to the citizens, talk about the condition of the City’s roads and tell them how much it is going to cost the City.

“Put it out there and let the people decide,” Boyer said.

Among the proposals presented, Boyer favored a 0.2 percent increase in the sales tax that would be coupled with a reduction of the $20 vehicle tab fee. That particular proposal would net the city $3.5 million per year.

While Boardmember Ian Cotton said that the Board needs to do something, he preferred more modest numbers in the range of $750,000-$1.5 million. Those numbers would  “at least get some revenue going,” Cotton said.

Boardmember Ruth Ross said she worried that all the sales tax increases that people are going to be able to stomach are going to go to some other agency. Ross said she would tell the voters that if they want some of their dollars to stay within their community, they need to support the TBD’s ideas or else someone else is going to get those dollars.

Boardmember Benjamin Goodwin favored spreading out the funding options as opposed to placing the burden solely on Lynnwood residents.

Board attorney Rosemary Larsen noted the Board has the option on whether to impose a vehicle tab fee but it is not clear if that authority extends to voters. The Board directed Larsen to research the issue and staff to come up with funding options to be presented at a special meeting on June. 4. The deadline for submitted a ballot measure for the fall general election is Aug. 4.

– By David Pan

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