WALLA WALLA -- City officials are looking at a 0.2 percent sales tax to raise almost $1 million per year for street repair.
On Monday, after reviewing the results of a recent survey on funding street repairs, City Council members agreed to have staff move forward with what could be a sale tax measure on the Feb. 14, 2012, ballot. Approval would move the city sales tax rate from 8.6 percent to 8.8 percent.
In addition to jumping through numerous legal hoops to form the required Transportation Benefit District -- which would allow the sales tax measure to go before voters -- staff must also persuade the Council to eventually approve the district's formation.
"I am not ready to do that. Yes, I understand the potential benefits, but I think we need to understand all the potential benefits of what a TBD does or could do," Council member Dominick Elia said.
Council members picked the sales tax over three other funding options, which were all part of a recent survey on street funding and city services.
The 425 participants of the survey were asked to choose "definitely support," "probably support," "not support" or "doesn't matter" for four options: sales tax, property tax levy, bond issue or adding $50 to their vehicle license tab fee.
The vehicle license tab fee had the greatest opposition, with close to 78 percent of participants stating they would not support it.
The sales tax and bond issue options were relatively close.
Roughly 42 percent of those surveyed said the would not support a sales tax, and 40 percent said they would not support a bond.
Another 52 percent said they would probably support or definitely support a sales tax, while 50 percent said they would probably support or definitely support a bond.
In spite of the closeness in responses, most Council members were leery of going with a bond issue, again.
"I personally think the sales tax is a no-brainer. It is the best chance we have. We have had bond issues in the past, and they have went down the tubes. And I think this is the best chance we have," Council member Fred Mitchell said.
The fourth option, a property tax levy, had the highest support, at 55 percent, and the fewest non-supporters, at 36 percent.
But this option required raising the property tax lid, and would tax only city residents, as opposed to those living just outside city boundaries or visitors.
Prior to establishing a Transportation Benefit District, several actions must take place by the end of this year:
- Determining a list of specific work projects for the district.
- Holding a public hearing relating to the district's formation.
- Adopting an ordinance for the district.
- Holding a special hearing relating to the sales tax proposal.
If approved by the newly formed district board, filing a sales tax measure with the Walla Walla County Auditor for the Feb. 14, 2012, ballot.
The survey was of people 18 and older who live in Walla Walla.
Of those questioned, 93 percent voted in the last general election, 69 percent were 55 or older, 64 percent had lived in Walla Walla for at least 20 years and 88 percent owned their own home.
Alfred Diaz can be reached at email@example.com or 526-8325.