Road work like this underway Thursday — along 196th Street SW in Lynnwood — could have about $1 million less after the City Council voted to no longer collect certain vehicle registration fees. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Road work like this underway Thursday — along 196th Street SW in Lynnwood — could have about $1 million less after the City Council voted to no longer collect certain vehicle registration fees. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

In close vote, Lynnwood council plans to end $40 car-tab fee

Members voted 4-3 to end fees that fund road work. With an election Tuesday, the matter might not be settled.

LYNNWOOD — In a couple of years, drivers living in Lynnwood could see lower car-tab costs.

On Monday the Lynnwood City Council voted 4-3 to stop collecting $40 vehicle license fees that fund city road work, starting in 2023. Drivers will still pay other vehicle registration costs.

The vote drew a battle line between the two candidates for the mayor’s office, both council members, who split over the issue.

Reducing taxes, including the car-tab fee, has been part of Councilmember Jim Smith’s mayoral campaign. At the council meeting Monday, he said the city isn’t taking care of sidewalks and streets. He said he hopes to change that by moving more general fund money to public works.

Councilmember Christine Frizzell said the city was already behind on road maintenance, replacing signals and improving sidewalks and curb ramps that meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

“I think it’s extremely shortsighted to just, by the stroke of our pen, slash a million dollars from our budget,” said Frizzell.

She is running to be Lynnwood’s mayor and has the endorsement of Mayor Nicola Smith, who is not seeking re-election.

In a statement after the vote, the mayor said the ordinance was done beyond the city’s normal budget process and bypassed the council finance committee. She also criticized the lack of a plan to replace the lost revenue.

“Our roads and sidewalks are critically important to our community, and this directly impacts our ability to maintain and build our critical infrastructure,” Mayor Smith said. “This process was short-sighted and leaves many unanswered questions.”

The ordinance now goes to the outgoing mayor, who had 10 days to sign the measure, veto it or let it take effect without her signature. The mayor was considering each option.

Lynnwood, like many cities and counties, has a Transportation Benefit District that allows it to add fees to car tabs. In Lynnwood, the fees amount to about $2 million each biennium budget for street maintenance, preservation and capital projects.

Statewide voters repeatedly have approved initiatives for a flat car-tab fee. But those measures have been reversed through legislation or rejected by courts, such as Initiative 976 in 2019.

Frizzell was joined by Councilmembers Ruth Ross and Shannon Sessions, who said she was concerned about the pandemic’s possible hit to revenue and wanted to tackle delayed road work.

Councilmember Julieta Altamirano-Crosby voted to stop the car-tab fee “to give relief” to families.

Ending the fees honors the will of voters, Council President George Hurst said. It also follows through on his pledge from 2016, when the city asked voters for a 0.1% sales tax increase to fund road projects over a decade, he said.

“At this time, I think the vehicle fee can be eliminated,” Hurst said.

On Monday, car-tab initiatives promoter Tim Eyman told the council he supported the fee’s elimination.

“It will show that at least one city council in the state of Washington was willing to listen to voters, not ignore voters and insult the intelligence of voters,” he said during a public comment period.

On Wednesday, Eyman sent an email gloating about the vote. The headline: “HUGE CAR TABS VICTORY.”

A Thurston County Superior Court judge ordered Eyman last April to pay $2.9 million for violating campaign finance laws.

Per the ordinance, the fees will be collected next year. But starting in 2023, people who renew their vehicle registration won’t see the extra $40 charge.

Last year, the city collected $1.3 million in vehicle registration fees. Combined with interest, as well as sales and use tax for road work, the Transportation Benefit District had $3.7 million in revenue, according to city documents.

Projects funded by the special district cost $2.5 million in 2020.

City leaders considered scrapping the car-tab fee in 2018 but ultimately kept it, in a unanimous vote.

Next year, three new members could join the Lynnwood City Council, depending on Tuesday’s election results.

Ben Watanabe:; 425-339-3037; Twitter @benwatanabe.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Lead climbers head up their respective routes at Vertical World North on Monday, Nov. 20, 2023, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Beginner’s ascent: A newcomer’s guide to indoor climbing

Indoor climbing gyms in and around Snohomish County offer thrills without winter chills.

Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. (Olivia Vanni/The Herald)
Providence Swedish tightens COVID, mask policy

Citing a rise in respiratory illness, local hospitals and clinics will require masks for care.

Chestnut mushrooms grow in a fruiting tent on Friday, Dec. 1, 2023, at Black Forest Mushrooms in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Fungi town: Downtown Everett home to new indoor gourmet mushroom farm

Black Forest Mushrooms will grow up to 20,000 pounds of tasty mushrooms each month. Its storefront opens Saturday at 2110 Hewitt Ave.

Outside of Angel of the Winds Arena on Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Police arrest Angel of the Winds arena worker accused of stabbing boss

The man allegedly walked up to his employer and demanded a raise, before stabbing him in the stomach, witnesses said.

The town post office in Index, Washington on Wedesday, Nov. 29, 2023.  (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Index, smallest town in Snohomish County, is No. 1 in voter turnout

Index has beaten the Snohomish County ballot return rate in each of the last 10 years. Snohomish County leaders have a few theories as to why.

Founder and Executive Director Pa Ousman Joof, alongside Lynnwood Mayor Christine Frizzell, right, prepares to cut the ribbon during the grand opening of the Washington West African Center on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, in Lynnwood, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Born out of struggle, West African Center flourishes in Lynnwood

African music filled the room Saturday at 19203 36th Ave. West, for the grand opening of the nonprofit’s new state headquarters.

An STI clinic opened Friday, Dec. 1, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Free STI clinic opens in Everett after 14-year hiatus — and as rates spike

The county-run facility will provide treatment and resources for prevention of sexually transmitted infections.

Graffiti covers the eastern side of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Snohomish County Cascade Unit on Friday, Dec. 1, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Again, Boys and Girls Club tagged with suspected gang signs in Everett

Residents on Cascade Drive say their neighborhood has been the scene of excessive graffiti and sometimes gunfire in the past year.

A man pauses to look out over the flooding along Old Snohomish Monroe Road on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023 in Snohomish, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Why are Snohomish County rivers susceptible to flooding?

The short answer: Geography. Our proximity to Puget Sound and the mountains makes our rivers sensitive to big storms.

Henry King sits on a bench he often spent time on between the Boulevard Park and Taylor Dock boardwalks in Bellingham, Washington. (Photo courtesy of Bellingham Police Department)
Marysville man accused of killing ‘kind, gentle’ homeless Bellingham man

After a nine-month investigation, police arrested Elijah Belmont Wednesday in the death of Henry King in Boulevard Park.

Traffic moves along Mukilteo Speedway in front of Olympic Middle School on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Automated traffic speed cameras get the green light in Mukilteo

Cameras will be at three sites on Mukilteo Speedway for school and park safety, not at red lights.

Brenda Stonecipher, left, and Mary Fosse
Everett council president backs down from ban on holding 2 offices

On Wednesday, over 20 speakers showed up to support City Council member Mary Fosse’s ability to serve in the state Legislature.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.