Lacey City Manager Scott Spence on Thursday asked for specific directions from the council about creating a tool to fund road improvements, and the council didn’t hesitate.
Here’s how most of the council wants to see a Transportation Benefit District plan unfold:
▪ Create the district with a council vote.
▪ Meet with the Lacey South Sound Chamber of Commerce and possibly the Thurston County Chamber of Commerce to gauge the business community’s willingness to absorb a sales tax rate increase.
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▪ Go to voters next year with a ballot measure, asking them to support a 0.2 percent increase in the sales tax rate.
▪ Pledge to spend 100 percent of the money raised on road improvements.
If approved by voters — during either a special election in April, the primary in August or the general election in November — the sales tax increase would raise about $1.6 million annually for a limited term of 10 years.
Public Works Director Scott Egger said the city needs the money for its roads. The city already spends $1 million a year on paving, but needs additional funds for big projects and new streets added by development.
Lacey’s streets, according to the city’s 2014 State of the Streets report, have an overall pavement condition index of 83 — 100 is a perfect score — but some are in better shape than others.
Ruddell Road near Rainier Vista Park rates a 92, but Willamette Drive at Hogum Bay Road rates a 70 and Homann Drive Southeast a 64. For perspective, the city of Tacoma’s pavement condition index is 42, according to data shared at the meeting.
Not every council member backs the plan. Virgil Clarkson favors a vehicle tab fee of $20 because he’s concerned about the cumulative effect of tax increases.“I’m in favor of the tabs fee at this time,” he said.
But other council members said the vehicle tab fee wouldn’t raise enough money — $675,000 annually — and is limited to Lacey residents. The sales tax increase would be paid by residents and visitors.
Clarkson also raised the prospect of voters not approving the sales tax, but Councilman Lenny Greenstein said it’s up to the council to sell voters on the idea and to remind them the city has shown it can be fiscally responsible.
“The value proposition is that it is much cheaper to maintain streets than to replace them,” Councilman Jeff Gadman said.