The Lacey City Council voted unanimously last week to form a transportation benefit district, a tool to be used to fund city road improvements.
But that is only the first step, because the council needs to determine how to fund the district, which may require a vote of the people.
The council’s choices are to enact a $20 vehicle tabs fee or raise the local sales tax to 8.9 percent from 8.7 percent. If the council chooses the sales tax route, it likely will be put to a vote during a special election in the spring or the August primary.
Councilman Lenny Greenstein said his decision on Thursday to support formation of the district was a no-brainer.
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“It would be irresponsible for us to not maintain our roads at the best level that we can,” he said. “Simple math says that if we don’t maintain them now, the cost will triple to fix broken roads for not maintaining them.”
Lacey Public Works Director Scott Egger said 75 cities statewide have formed transportation benefit districts. Forty-seven cities, including Olympia, are funded by vehicle tabs, while 19, including the city of Tumwater, are funded by sales taxes, he said. Nine communities are trying to determine which route they will go, Egger said.
Lacey City Council conversations show them leaning toward a sales tax hike to fund the district. If approved by voters, it would raise about $1.6 million annually for 10 years.
Lacey Finance Director Troy Woo has crunched numbers showing that someone earning $50,000 to $60,000 a year would pay about $25 a year in sales tax for the district, while the typical two-car family would pay $40 a year in vehicle tab fees.