Editorial: Take a look at your tax dollars at work

Three Snohomish County mayors point to the work being done because of recent state funding.

By The Herald Editorial Board

With federal income tax returns filled out and sent — not to mention the steady beat of quarterly property tax statements and tallies of sales tax on receipts — we get plenty of reminders of the taxes we pay out.

That focus is correct, but it’s easy to overlook what comes in to our communities — provided by those taxes — in the way of salaries for firefighters, law enforcement offices, school teachers and other services as well as the schools, community centers, roads, sidewalks, parks and more that we use everyday.

The flow of some of that funding was shut off last year when the Legislature failed to pass a capital budget, the funding source for billions of dollars in public projects in all of the state’s 39 counties. The failure stopped work on some projects and prevented others from starting during last summer’s construction season, but funding was restored early this year and boosted by supplemental spending later in the legislative session.

The temporary loss of funding was easily noticed by city leaders — among them Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling, Lynnwood Mayor Nicola Smith and Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring — as has been the resumption of the funding and the work on projects in their communities and throughout Snohomish County, each said during a recent discussion with the editorial board.

A look at just a few of the projects in the statewide $4.2 billion capital budget and a supplemental transportation budget shows what each can mean to keeping cities moving, vital and livable.

For Marysville, a $1 million grant will allow work to continue on the third phase of the city’s Ebey Waterfront Trail, a five-mile loop of the estuary at the city’s north end. It’s a project, Nehring said, that is allowing the city to redevelop a former industrial waterfront into a regional attraction for the city.

A $500,000 grant in the state’s supplemental transportation budget will go toward design of an vehicle overpass at Grove Street to replace the current at-grade railroad crossing that frequently blocks east-west traffic.

In Edmonds, this year’s capital budget has provided $2.25 million toward its planned $11 million waterfront community and senior center, as well as $391,000 for a new roof on the Anderson Senior Center, and $6 million toward a $30 million railroad overpass project that would provide emergency, ferry and pedestrian access along a waterfront where up to 40 trains a day delay traffic, and rail accidents can cut off access for hours, Earling said.

In Lynnwood, a $750,000 grant, joined with funds from the cities of Lynnwood and Edmonds and the Edmonds School District, will renovate the Meadowdale High School playfield, including the installation of all-weather turf for two soccer fields and three softball fields used by the school district and the community, accommodating about 245,000 visitors annually.

A city with heavy use of its streets and highways, Lynnwood relies on state funding, including $5 million in transportation funding for a $24 million widening and improvement of 196th Street SW that will allow the city center to accommodate its development and growth, Smith said. Another $3 million grant will allow for project design of the Poplar Way extension, a new overpass across I-5 that will link Poplar and 33rd Avenue W., a project that with an estimated construction cost of $21 million.

While the funding for design work for the transportation projects in Lynnwood, Marysville and elsewhere represents a fraction of the projects’ total cost, Smith and Nehring said having the design work complete and permit process started is a must for any hope of securing future state and federal funding.

There are hundreds of other projects throughout the county, including more than $1 billion for construction of new and remodeled schools.

Another significant project in Lynnwood that can soon start construction, Smith said, is Edmonds Community College’s $37.8 million science, engineering and technology building.

In Everett, ground has broken recently on two projects aided by state capital budget funding, including Cocoon House’s Colby Avenue Youth Center, providing shelter and resources for at-risk youths; and HopeWorks’ Station II, providing 65 units of affordable housing and a workforce training center.

All three mayors said they were appreciative of the region’s legislative delegation, Democrats and Republicans, who have worked with communities to secure funding for these projects. The inclusion of these programs in the capital and transportation budgets required an organized lobbying effort, the mayors said, noting the work of community groups, agencies, other city officials and region-wide organizations, in particular Economic Alliance Snohomish County.

That group effort, Smith said, has raised the profile of Snohomish County and its communities, made clear its needs and shown the county’s economic importance, helping to win financial support that at other times has gone elsewhere in the state.

“We not invisible anymore,” Smith said.

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