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Renewing roads benefit district tax is on Snohomish ballots

SNOHOMISH — Voters are being asked whether to continue the city’s 0.2 percent sales tax for roads under what’s called a Transportation Benefit District.
The city uses the money largely to fix and repave roads. It also uses some of the money as a seed fund to put up city matching dollars required to accept state and federal grants for road projects. The city wants to use it for two future projects: Replacing the stoplight at Pine Avenue and Second Street to improve traffic flow and to put a traffic light at Bickford Avenue and 19th Place.
City officials wrote that if voters decline to renew the road tax, the city would need to pay for repaving roads from its general budget or by using Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) money that is collected through property transactions. The road tax in recent years has brought in about $700,000 to $850,000 a year, plus the fund collects bank interest, city budgets show. The city directs approximately $400,000 to $800,000 a year of this money to pay for repaving projects around town. (The city’s Traffic Impact Fee fund on new construction also contributes, but raises far less.)
In 2011, voters approved initiating the 10-year transportation district; this vote is whether to renew it for another 10 years.
The measure passes if 50% or more voters say yes.
The Tribune requested that the people who wrote the pro and con statements in the voter’s guide to write statements to the paper.

From the committee saying to vote yes (Nick Gottuso and Paul Kaftanski):
Snohomish’s Transportation Benefit District (TBD) was created ten years ago as a resource for transportation infrastructure improvements and maintenance. Since the funds cannot be used for any other city services, Snohomish has protected and dedicated funding for transportation projects. As more people visit Snohomish and move into surrounding areas, maintaining and improving Snohomish’s transportation infrastructure is critical. Major TBD projects have cost $8.2 million of which $5 million was composed of federal and state dollars, with the remaining $3.2 million by TBD funds. TBD is supported by 2 cents on a $10 taxable sale. According to estimates, 90% of district revenue comes from non-city resident shoppers. Recent TBD projects include Maple Avenue, Second and Fourth Streets, Terrace Avenue, Cypress Lane, and the Avenue D Roundabout (which eliminated congestion at that intersection). In 2021, Park Avenue and Avenue D will be renovated. Maintaining the TBD has broad support from residents and business owners.

From the committee saying to vote no (Morgan Davis and Don Baldwin):
The 10 year TBD sales tax was necessary in 2011 and in the early years of the Great Recession. It served its purpose but is no longer needed or justified, proven by the fact City Hall’s coffers are rolling in money. Overall sales tax revenue is way up; yet, City Hall is seriously studying another dedicated sales tax increase for housing.
As of January, the General Fund and TBD Fund had huge surplus balances, totaling $9.5 million—a reserve balance ratio of 40% when most cities are happy with a ratio of 10%.
If City Hall can hand out huge, no-strings attached, property tax breaks in the Pilchuck District and now in the Midtown District to developers like Craig Skotdal, owner of Snohomish Square, surely City Hall can afford to give the average Snohomish area citizen a little 0.2% TBD sales tax break.
Voters should send a message to City Hall by rejecting Prop 1.



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