Olympia considers cable TV tax as part of updated list of capital projects

The Olympia City Council received a briefing Tuesday on an updated six-year plan for capital projects, which includes a proposed tax for Comcast cable TV customers.

The Capital Facilities Plan is a list of projects with an outline for costs, financing and construction timelines. Under consideration is the preliminary plan, which totals $142.5 million and covers the years 2015-2020. The preliminary six-year plan is for 2015-2020. The plan includes a nearly $20 million increase in the cost of projects related to drinking water compared to the current plan.

According to the city, larger projects in the drinking water sector include a water main extension for the new Log Cabin reservoir for $1.2 million; $700,000 for water and sewer repairs at the Percival Creek utility bridge; $600,000 to retrofit the city’s maintenance center for storm water treatment; and $812,000 for a storm water retrofit on State Avenue.

Jane Kirkemo, administrative services director, told the council that the finance committee is still figuring out how many of these projects the city can afford.

The preliminary plan includes a proposed ordinance for a 6 percent utility tax on cable TV customers in Olympia. The tax would result in a monthly increase of $5 for Comcast customers only, Kirkemo said, adding that the new tax would bring in about $600,000 next year for building maintenance. Kirkemo said the law does not allow the city to apply the tax to other Internet providers.

"That is not something we took lightly," Kirkemo said of the proposed tax.

Currently, the utility tax applies to electricity, natural gas and telephone service. The council is expected to vote on the ordinance Aug. 12, and the ordinance would take effect in January.

The Olympia School District also will submit a Capital Facilities Plan to dovetail with the city’s plan. That’s because the city collects impact fees on the school district’s behalf. The district’s plan is expected to be ready in August, said Jennifer Priddy, assistant superintendent.

In drafting its plan, the school district is dealing with variables such as federal mandates for full-day kindergarten and class-size reduction, Priddy said. She also noted that people are collecting signatures for Initiative 1351, which would reduce class sizes in the state. Priddy estimated that the district would need to add 40 classrooms to meet the mandate under those conditions.

The city will hold public hearings this fall regarding the preliminary Capital Facilities Plan. The council is expected to vote on the final plan Dec. 16.