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Transportation district approved; fee next?

9:37 pm July 13th, 2012

The Dispatch
Eatonville residents are closer to paying a new fee to help pay for upkeep of the town’s streets.
The Town Council voted June 25 to create a transportation benefit district. That action allows the town to tack a street maintenance fee as high as $20 onto state vehicle registrations for cars owned by people living inside the town limits.
But the decision to begin charging that additional fee hasn’t been made. The council first wants input from the public on whether to:
• Authorize the fee at all.
• Or set the fee at the $20 maximum or a smaller amout.
If the council decides to go with a fee, the council would serve as the district’s board, making decisions on how to spend the money. The town treasurer would control the fund created by collecting the fee.
Money from the fee would likely be earmarked for routine street maintenance and repairs, such as potholes and chip seals. It wouldn’t be spent on major street improvements, town officials said.
Eatonville would be the 21st town or city in Washington to have a fee-collecting transportation benefit district. Of the other 20, 19 of them assess the full $20 that’s allowed under state law. Burien ($10) is the only city that charges less than the maximum.
The cities include the state’s largest (Seattle) and some of the smallest, such as Zillah, whose population of about 2,900 is similar in size to Eatonville.
Mayor Ray Harper and other Eatonville officials want the town to generate new revenue in order to afford the town’s services, including streets.
That kind of thinking is why transportation benefit districts (TBDs) were authorized by the Legislature in 1987. Lawmakers wanted to give local governments a possible source of funds for transportation improvements to help replace revenue that dwindled in the last 12 years as a result of statewide ballot measures eliminating other sources of funding.
As a quasi-municipal corporation and independent taxing district, TBDs exist solely for the benefit of transportation needs within their boundaries.
In 2005 and 2007, the Legislature gave local governments the ability to authorize a $20 annual vehicle license fee without asking their local voters for approval. Under the state law, towns and cities can also ask voters to approve an additional $80 fee.
Vehicles that are subject to TBD fees include all private and commercial passenger vehicles, motorcycles, commercial trucks weighing 6,000 pounds or less, travel trailers, mobile homes licensed as vehicles, and house-moving dollies. Exempt from the fee are farm vehicles, campers, off-road vehicles, snowmobiles, commercial and combination trailers, government vehicles, and private-school vehicles.

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