Thursday, February 22, 2024

Chelan council workshop discusses TBD options, benefits

Voter approval considered

Posted

CHELAN – The Chelan city council workshop convened on Feb. 6 to discuss elements of the Transportation Benefit District (TBD) adopted by the city on Jan. 23. The workshop included a review of what the TBD is, its significance for city transportation projects, and what revenue options the council has open to it. 

A TBD provides a new funding vehicle for roads, sidewalks, and other transportation projects, and the revenue derived from it can only be used for those projects. Of the several funding options available, the one most commonly used is a sales and use tax of 0.1 (one-tenth) percent to 0.3 percent.

The wear and tear from the high volume of tourist traffic using Chelan streets, sidewalks, parking lots, and roads has stayed ahead of city funds to keep up with infrastructure repairs. Until the TBD was approved, the city leveraged property tax dollars through grants to fund maintenance and repair projects.

Chelan’s six-year Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) through 2029 reflects repair costs well in excess of what current revenues can cover. The added TBD funds could be applied directly to projects or matching funds that some grants require.

“We have a lot of projects that will never be grant fund projects,” said Community Development Director John Ajax.

Similar to the one percent annual increase in property tax dollars that the city can collect without voter approval, it can do the same with 0.1 (one-tenth) percent of TBD sales tax revenues. It must receive voter approval if the city wants to maximize TBD revenues by opting for 0.2 percent (two cents/$10) or 0.3 percent (three cents/$10). 

Comments from some council quarters favor going to voters for the 0.3 percent maximum.

In that event, Mayor Erin McCardle stressed the need for community outreach to ensure the public is on board.

“We really have to make sure our story is locked up,” said McCardle. “We need to do a lot of communications so that there’s an awareness and understanding within the community.”

McCardle said the city has until an August 1 deadline to put the TBD measure on the November election ballot.

“Before August 1…we need to have a pulse of the community on how much they support this,” said McCardle, “and have council make a decision on which direction we’re going.”

If recent figures from the Municipal Research and Services Center (MRSC) are any measure, the chances of voter approval appear to be in the city’s favor. As of January 2024, MRSC figures show that of more than 110 cities and towns in Washington that have established TBDs, voters have approved the majority of all proposed TBD sales and use taxes.

Mike Maltais: 360-333-8483 or michael@ward.media

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