Snohomish asks voters to renew sales tax for transportation

Money would pay for overlays and intersection fixes. Foes say city has money and tax no longer needed

SNOHOMISH — A decade ago, Snohomish voters agreed to increase the city’s sales tax and use the money generated to repair streets and build specific transportation improvements.

Now, the city is asking voters to renew that tax for another decade.

Proposition 1 on the Aug. 3 primary ballot would keep in place the 0.2% sales tax which amounts to a dime on a $50 taxable purchase. Those dimes add up, with collections totalling $8.2 million as of March.

Those dollars have covered the cost of filling potholes and doing street overlays. Some also have been used to construct a roundabout at 15th Avenue and Avenue D — a project the city promised to voters in the 2011 ballot measure.

And the city continues to leverage portions of collections to secure larger state and federal grants. When the year began, the city had roughly $5 million available — though the number will soon dip as the council recently approved a pair of sizable overlay projects.

Supporters of Proposition 1 — which include the mayor and city council — say there is a continued need for this dedicated stream of revenue.

If the measure passes, the city estimates it will bring in $1.2 million a year starting Jan. 1, 2022. This increase would be in place for another decade.

In addition to paying for preserving and repairing streets with overlays, the city is pledging to use a portion of future collections to improve two intersections.

One of those is Pine Avenue and Second Street where the traffic signal — which now hangs from wires — would be upgraded and the lights timed with other signals on Second Street. The other targeted intersection improvement is for the area of 19th Street and Bickford Avenue.

“I think this has been really good for our town,” said Paul Kaftanski, a former city councilmember who wrote the argument in favor of the measure in the local voters’ pamphlet. “If we have to fund all these projects on our own, we’d be broke.”

Kaftanski also wrote the argument in favor of the measure in 2011. At that time, he said the public’s demand for services outpaced the revenues collected by the city to provide them.

State law allowed the city to form a Transportation Benefit District and impose a local car tab fee to fund improvements within the district.

But the Snohomish City Council chose not to go that route. Instead, it let voters decide whether to form a district and increase taxes by two cents on a $10 purchase to keep the streets in working order, Kaftankski recalled.

“Now, we’re given the choice again to decide if we want to do this or not,” he said. “I really hope our residents see the value of having this funding source.”

Not all do.

“There’s no need to extend this tax any more. It is just unnecessary because the city has the money to do these projects,” said Morgan Davis, who co-authored the argument against Proposition 1 in the pamphlet.

Davis noted that much of the collected taxes has yet to be spent. On top of that, he said, the city is getting a chunk of federal funds for COVID relief and could get more federal aid for transportation if the much-discussed infrastructure bill passes in Congress.

In other words, he said, the city is rolling in dough.

“The taxpayer should not be a bottomless pit for this,” he said. “They can always put the transportation benefit district tax back on the ballot if it is needed.”

Jerry Cornfield:; @dospueblos

Talk to us

More in Local News

Zachary Robbins
Marysville superintendent could start a month early

A June start means Zachary Robbins could weigh in on a $13.5 million budget shortfall and a parental consent policy for clubs.

FILE - In this Oct. 24, 2020, file photo, a Washington state Department of Agriculture worker holds two of the dozens of Asian giant hornets vacuumed from a tree in Blaine, Wash. Authorities say they've found the first Asian giant hornet nest of 2021 in a rural area east of Blaine. State entomologists will now develop a plan to eradicate the nest. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
Scientists will set 1,000 traps for murder hornets this year

Asian giant hornets, first detected in 2019, are are believed to be confined in Whatcom County.

Driver dies after rollover crash at Smokey Point

The deceased man, 25, reportedly sped off from police before crashing into a nearby utility pole. A woman, 19, was injured.

Lynnwood City Council member George Hurst moves to postpone action on the vehicle license fees ordinance during the council's meeting Monday. (Screenshot/City of Lynnwood)
Lynnwood to keep collecting a car tab fee and utility tax, for now

City Council members will consider repealing them in October when they write a new city budget.

Epic Ford on the corner of 52nd Street and Evergreen Way in Everett is closed. The dealership has been in business for more than 50 years. (Janice Podsada / The Herald)
After 50 years, Everett’s Epic Ford dealership closes shop

It opened in 1971, when gas guzzling muscle cars like the Ford Mustang still ruled the road.

Police officials investigate a shooting at Daleway Park Tuesday afternoon in Lynnwood on April 4, 2022.   (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Police: Suspect arrested in fatal shooting of retired Lynnwood man

Carl Bridgmon, 70, was an innocent bystander caught in a shooting at Daleway Park in Lynnwood. A second suspect was at large.

Nuno Taborda
Former Rolls Royce executive to lead Everett aerospace firm

magniX, which builds electric aircraft motors, has hired Nuno Taborda as its next CEO.

The Mountain Loop Highway between Darrington and Granite Falls remains closed beyond Barlow Pass. (Snohomish County)
Oops, Mountain Loop Highway only partly open

A miscommunication led Snohomish County to misstate how much of the road is open.

Smokey Point Boulevard stretch closed for crash investigation

The road was closed between 136th Street NE and 152nd Street NE after a possibly fatal collision.

Most Read