Lacey’s plans for a Transportation Benefit District took another step forward during the City Council’s Thursday night work session.
This much is clear: A public hearing for people to comment on the idea is set for Thursday. At the hearing, the council will also weigh whether to approve an ordinance to create the district.
Creating the district is expected to happen next week, but funding it is something entirely different. It’s still to be determined, but council discussions to date show members leaning toward a local sales tax hike, boosting it to 8.9 percent from 8.7 percent. That would require a vote of the people, which likely will happen during a special election in the spring — as long as it’s not too expensive — or as part of the August primary.
The council has ruled out November’s general election because of how crowded the fall ballot will be, including the election of the next U.S. president.
“They might vote for president and leave the rest of the ballot blank,” Councilman Michael Steadman warned at a recent council meeting. Steadman was absent Thursday.
The Transportation Benefit District would raise money for city street repairs. If voters approve the sales tax increase, it would raise about $1.6 million a year for a limited term of 10 years.
As part of the council’s process, Mayor Andy Ryder and Councilman Lenny Greenstein have undertaken some due diligence with the business community, wanting to gauge its support for a sales tax increase.
The two recently met with Lacey South Sound Chamber of Commerce board members, Greenstein said.
“They seem to be in favor and supportive of the district,” he said, adding that they also seem supportive of funding the district with a sales taxes and giving the public a chance to vote on it.
Next, Greenstein and Ryder plan to meet with the chamber’s government affairs committee, which will then make a recommendation to the chamber board on whether to endorse the district, Greenstein said.
The council also has the option of funding the district with a $20 vehicle tabs fee, but that approach hasn’t won much support among council members, who say it wouldn’t raise enough money and would apply only to Lacey residents. Sales taxes are paid by Lacey residents, but also by anyone who visits and shops in the city.