Everyone would foot bill for roads if Monroe voters raise taxes

MONROE — If voters here give a tax hike the green light, it would be paid by everyone who shops and uses the streets in the city, not just by Monroe residents.

A proposal to impose a two-tenths of 1 percent sales and use tax for road improvements in Monroe has made its way onto the Aug. 5 primary election ballot.

If approved, the money would be used to maintain Monroe’s roads, which need about $12 million worth of work, according to city estimates. The tax is expected to bring in about $826,000 a year. It would raise the current 8.7 percent sales tax rate to 8.9 percent for 10 years.

Public Works director Brad Feilberg said Monroe’s roads are deteriorating faster than the city can find money to fix them. It has been an ongoing problem since the late 1990s, he said.

The city used to pay for its road improvements by selling gravel from a piece of land it owned to companies that make asphalt, including Lakeside Industries and Cadman. Other road money sources, such as gas taxes and grants also have dried up since the recession, Feilberg said.

The Monroe City Council unanimously voted in April 2012 to create a transportation benefit district that includes the city limits. The council oversees the taxing district and acts as its board. It put Proposition 1, the transportation improvement tax, on the 2014 ballot.

The city’s website has a map that shows its road conditions and a list of what type of work the money is planned to go toward each year from 2015 to 2025, if the measure passes. That time line might change based on other projects being developed, the actual amount of tax collected and the availability of grant money.

Mayor Geoffrey Thomas said the money from the proposed tax would allow road maintenance work to be done sooner rather than waiting until it becomes more costly later. He compared the city dragging its feet on road repairs to waiting to fill a cavity until it becomes necessary to have a root canal.

Thomas said the council did not hear from people against the proposal at public hearings to put the measure on the ballot. The city did not have anyone volunteer for the committee tasked with preparing an opposition statement that would appear in the voter guide. A group called Citizens for Better Roads supports the proposal.

Thomas said he hopes voters approve the tax.

“It’ll give us an opportunity to invest in our infrastructure and share the cost across everyone who uses our streets, not just residents, but everybody coming to shop in town,” he said. “This is just a more fair way to fix our roads than relying on a property tax.”

Amy Nile: 425-339-3192; anile@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @AmyNileReports

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