Arlington seeks sales tax increase to fix roads

ARLINGTON — Voters in the city will be asked on the Aug. 6 ballot to approve a sales tax increase that would add 2 cents tax for every $10 spent on goods and services in Arlington.

If approved, Arlington Transportation Benefit District Proposition No. 1 would generate about $650,000 of additional revenue each year for improvements, maintenance, repair and preservation of city streets. The tax would have a limit of 10 years. Sales tax is not collected on most food items.

The total sales tax rate would rise to 8.8 percent, if approved, from 8.6 percent.

After watching the decline of the city’s sales tax and gas tax revenues during the past six years, Arlington City Council followed a state law allowing the board to create a new taxing district in April with the hope of taking care of the 126 streets that have been deemed failing or nearly so.

City Councilman Randy Tendering said he gets a lot of complaints about streets from his fellow bus drivers in the Arlington School District.

“Our bad streets cause extra wear and tear on our school buses, and we have one of the oldest bus fleets in the state,” Tendering said. “One time I was traveling on Fifth (Street) and the bus radio fell out of dashboard because the road was so rough. If the TBD measure is approved, we would start with our worst streets first.”

City council members said they spent time weighing all the alternatives for additional funding. They could have implemented a $20 vehicle tab fee. Council members agreed, however, that a tab fee increase would create an unfair burden on Arlington residents. Like other cities in Snohomish County, Arlington has many more people in town during the day who are not residents. The sales tax increase would be shared by all people who shop or do business in the city.

The cities of Stanwood and Snohomish, which also have sales tax rates of 8.8 percent, have implemented similar increases in sales tax to fund road repair. Edmonds, Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace, which have 9.5 percent sales tax rates, have imposed the additional vehicle tab fee.

Along with the tax revenue generated, the city’s transportation benefit district tax should make it easier for the city to apply for state and federal grants, city spokeswoman Kristin Banfield said.

“We need to be able to demonstrate that we have a pavement preservation program in place and that the city is taking care of what we have,” Banfield said. “This isn’t about building new roads, just bringing our current roads up to good condition. If we save them now, we won’t have to replace them in the future.”

City Council members also have noted that better roads are needed for economic development, safety and good property values.

A map of city roads that need work is available at tinyurl.com/ArlingtonBadRoadsMap. More information also is available by calling 360-403-3441.

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; gfiege@heraldnet.com.

What’s next

Today: Arlington Transportation Benefit District Proposition No. 1

Wednesday: Lynnwood mayor; Lakewood School Board District 1 director

Thursday: Camano Island Library Proposition No. 1; Lynnwood City Council Position No. 1

Friday: Lynnwood City Council Position No. 2

Saturday: Lynnwood City Council Position No. 3

Monday: Mill Creek City Council Position No. 1

July 30: Mill Creek City Council Position No. 2

Previous stories: Snohomish County Council; Index, Snohomish fire district levies; Arlington City Council Position No. 7; Mukilteo mayor; Monroe Proposition No. 1.

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