Letter: To TBD or not to TBD in Edmonds?

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We have an issue to vote on this November: To TBD or not to TBD. But what is it and why should I, as voter in Edmonds, care?

The Transportation Benefit District (TBD) was formed in Edmonds on Nov. 18, 2008, by a vote of the Edmonds City Council in response to an opportunity to raise revenues for transportation projects in the city. Under Washington State mandated guidelines, the TBD is allowed to raise license fees by $20/vehicle without voters consent. Any increase above that amount requires approval by voting citizens of the city.

The question before us in the next election is whether or not a $40 increase of TBD fees would be an acceptable way to fund transportation projects in the city of Edmonds. Let me explain why I believe that TBD funding is an excellent option despite my usual aversion to tax and levy increases.

First, the funds raised this way must be utilized for transportation projects. They may not be siphoned off to fund any other budget shortfall in the city. The 2008 ordinance limited the use of the first $20 to maintenance of existing transportation infrastructure. Proposition 1 will provide funding for construction of new transportation projects listed in the 2009 Transportation Element of the Comprehensive Plan. A dedicated  form of funding helps City staff secure matching grants and create partnerships that leverage the amount each of us contributes.

Second, there is oversight for transportation expenditures by the TBD board and accountability to the citizens for the way these funds are used. The TBD Board has an annual reporting and review process. The board is assisted in its evaluations by the Citizens Advisory Transportation Committee, a group of volunteers appointed by the mayor to participate in the development of the City’s comprehensive plan. I have personally participated in the development of two of these plans over the last 7 years.

Third, it is a graduated fee, in that households with more vehicles pay more in license fees for the transportation system they utilize.

If you are interested in knowing more about the state of the transportation in the city, you may access the detailed plans, committee meeting notes and attend future meetings. Citizen input is always welcomed. You may also visit the City’s website to learn more about the TBD proposal at www.ci.edmonds.wa.us/transBenefitDist.stm

Neil Tibbott, Co-chair
Citizen Advisory Transportation Committee
Edmonds

Editor’s note:  The My Edmonds News poll on this proposal can be found here.

6 COMMENTS

  1. This is Mr. Tibbett’s 2nd letter in support of the TBD car tab increase. The City’s website is misleading, it reads:
    “Transportation Benefit District Votes to Place Annual $40 Car License Renewal Fee On November, 2010 Ballot”
    The $40 is an increase, and the annual fee per car will be $60. The list of 37 items lacks specificity regarding exactly what will be included in the projects.

    Even Mr. Tibbett’s in June of 2010, didn’t support such a large and sweeping change,
    From the June 22, 2010 TBD Meeting Minutes
    “Mr. Tibbett relayed the Citizens Transportation Committee’s recommendations:
    1. Consider no more than a $40 license fee. This amount would provide the highest potential
    approval rate. The Committee feels a case can be made to citizens for a $40 license fee. If
    progress can be shown on those projects, a higher license fee could be recommended in 2015.
    2. Focus on improving LOS particularly concurrency projects that are already at LOS D or F.
    3. Look for and complete highly visible projects in the City that demonstrate attentiveness by the
    Committee and City Council to provide for the safe transit of citizens”

    This Ordinance is overly broad, lacks specificity, and will committ the citizens of Edmonds to paying $60 per car until at least 2025, it also restricts the funding to only the listed improvement projects regardless of other needs that may arise.
    Read the documents, think about it. Try to find some of the places on the list. Then decided if this is an ordinance you can support.

  2. The transportation committee brought forth a recommendation for a $40 increase. The maximum allowed to be brought to a vote is $80. The other $20 is a discretionary amount adopted by a vote of the TBD board.

    Please observe that the first item that would be funded by this proposed increase is street overlays. Currently there is no money in the city budget for paving. A typical schedule would be in the range of 35 years. The first $20 of the increase provides for a minimal overlay schedule which seems rather unambiguous to me.

    Thanks for taking time to read the 37 items. You may want to drive and walk the first five on the list to get an idea of what the Citizens Committee did to come to their conclusions. You can leave the other 32 off your list if you don’t care to study them.

    Neil

  3. I would like to find the project areas noted in the list of 37 but I cannot find “traffic calming” on a map, the walkway projects are just listed as long or short, with a street name, Bike signage means what exactly? Where is the exact information so that the voters can be truly informed? The list provided by the TBD does not give many specifics (save the $61 million dollar price tag, over 15 years). Since the proposed Ordinance includes all 37 projects, and commits the City to those 37 projects, considering only the first 5 on the list isn’t really what is needed. Where are the specifics, including how the cost per project were determined?

  4. Well I looked at the top 5…overlays obviously are important..main st and 3rd light improvement..I go thru there 10x a day..whats wrong with it? Main and 9th..go thru every day many times, don’t see a problem there..little wait time when school is out but so..Walnut and 9th,works just fine.minor backups at rush hour..5 corners been going thru there for 40 some years..everyone gets it and a roundabout or whatever they are spending $2.2 million on isn’t needed..the biggest death trap in our town is the 88th and 196th crossing…kids are crossing to go to Maplewood or to Seaview and there is no crosswalk, the road turns as it winds down to edmonds and is brutal for cars trying to cross let alone kids..and I can’t find it anywhere on this project list..whatever, they should have done the $20 add-on w no vote and not gotten greedy..I just don’t see this passing..

  5. The discussion of the fee or tax or what ever being regressive is interesting but here are some facts that the Levy Committee in a public meeting has gathered.

    To protect our investment in roads and side walks and right of ways from deteriorating Public Works has spent in the past and estimates in the future that we need between $2.5-$3.0 million per year. For street overlays as an example we need about $1.5m per year. While Edmonds has paved a few streets in the last couple of years it has all been done with federal stimulus money or as a part of a utility project. Edmonds has not paved a street on its own for the last few years.

    Primary streets are estimated to need overlay work every 15-20 years and other streets need overlay work in the 30-40 year range. To keep up with this need is where the $1.5m comes in. Although the first $20 TBD fee goes to the street fund, none of it goes to overlays. This year’s transfer from the General fund was around $770,000 but none of it went to overlays.

    With about 25,000 registered vehicles at $20 each we raise about $500k. The proposed $40 added fee seems to be going $20 to overlay work and $20 to the long list of other projects. If you just look at the overlay part that generates $500k for overlay work when the requirement is for about $1.5m just to stay even. While the Mayors budget is not yet out it is hard to believe there will be a line item from the general fund going to overlay work that makes up the short fall. So how are we going to protect the investment we have in streets? How do we make sure we do not create hazards that could open us to lawsuits from bikers and walkers and cars?

    When we look at things like the TBD we can discuss the taxing philosophy but we also need to go back to what it is we want to do with basic services like maintain the infrastructure we have. On one hand we can argue about the merits of the new things on the long list, but on the other hand how do we argue about the basics like keeping the infrastructure we have in an acceptable condition. The questions boil down to what will it take to maintain what we have and where do we get the money to do it. If we want it to come from the TBD then $20 is not enough, it would take about $60 of TBD funds to raise the $1.5m annually. If we want it to come from the general fund then we have to put it in the budget. Since NO GENERAL FUND dollars are going to street overlays we would need to put that in the budget. The bottom line Edmonds has about 20,000 households and we need about $75 per household per year to keep the roads in good condition.

    Logic would suggest that since none of our current taxes go to street overlay work we need to find a way to fund this basic service. We can shift funds from other places in the budget and anger people who want those funds to stay where they are or we can find new funds through a levy increase, a TBD fee, or pass the hat. The bottom line is we need a complete plan to pay for the basics. This is not to say what is the right way but rather to point out that we are kidding ourselves if we think the TBD will take care of street overlay work because it will not be enough unless we dedicated all $60 to street overlays.

    The current plan is to have $20 or $500k go to the long list of projects. The 36 project on the list represent about $54.5m with the top 10 ranked projects representing about $5.3m. So with $500k per year it would take about 11 years to get to the top 10 projects. To do the consider these projects but the TBD fee will not take care of these needs either in any of our life times. entire list of 36 projects it will take about 109 years. This is not to say we should not

  6. Last paragraph above got messed up. Is should read:

    The current plan is to have $20 or $500k go to the long list of projects. The 36 project on the list represent about $54.5m with the top 10 ranked projects representing about $5.3m. So with $500k per year it would take about 11 years to get to the top 10 projects. To do the entire list of 36 projects it will take about 109 years. This is not to say we should not consider these projects but the TBD fee will not take care of these needs either in any of our life times.

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