Proposition 1, the Lacey ballot measure that sought to raise the local sales tax to pay for road and sidewalk maintenance, was passing easily late Wednesday, according to the first special election returns.
Those supporting Proposition 1, otherwise known as the funding mechanism for the city’s Transportation Benefit District, were leading 62.17 percent to those against at 37.83 percent, a second count of ballots showed Wednesday afternoon.
If the measure passes — and it appears it will — the local sales tax in Lacey will increase to 8.9 percent from 8.7 percent. The change takes effect in July and lasts 10 years. The special election will be certified by the county Feb. 24.
Lacey Mayor Andy Ryder said the message of pay now, or pay even more later, resonated with Lacey voters.
“If we wait until roads fail, then it will cost three times as much to repair,” he said late Tuesday. “That is not a fiscally responsible way to run the city.”
The sales tax increase will raise between $1.6 million and $1.8 million annually for road and sidewalk maintenance. The new source of revenue comes in the nick of time after the city had recently exhausted some reserves for road maintenance.
The city used to transfer $1 million per year — $850,000 from its general fund and $150,000 in capital funds — to cover the cost of road maintenance, also known as the city’s overlay program. But when the recession created deficits in the city’s budget, the city had to dedicate those funds to operations.
Those yearly transfers came to an end in 2013, and the city began using reserves to cover road maintenance needs through 2016.
Overall, the city’s streets are in pretty good shape, rating about 85 on the pavement condition index. A new street has a PCI of 100, while a failing street has a PCI of 50 or lower. But without regular maintenance, PCI levels can drop a point a year.
Some Lacey streets that will benefit from the new maintenance funding are:
▪ Golf Club Road, between 14th Avenue Southeast and Pacific Avenue Southeast.
▪ Lacey Boulevard, between Sleater-Kinney Road Southeast and the roundabout.
▪ 14th Avenue Southeast, between College Street and Ruddell Road.
▪ Yelm Highway, between Parkside Drive and the Chehalis-Western Trail passenger bridge.
Lacey is not the first community in Thurston County to create and fund a Transportation Benefit District. Tumwater approved a sales tax increase last year, while Olympia chose car tab fees.