Edmonds City Council to discuss vehicle fee increase Tuesday night

The Edmonds City Council Tuesday night has scheduled a first reading of a proposed ordinance that would assess Edmonds vehicle owners an additional $40 each through licensing fees to fund 37 separate transportation projects aimed at addressing city traffic safety, congestion and pedestrian improvements. Through Edmonds Transportation Benefit District, the city currently collects a $20 fee for transportation-related projects.

To become effective, the fee increase to $60 must be approved by voters; the council’s first reading Tuesday night, followed by a public hearing next Tuesday, Aug. 3, are the next required steps before placing the measure on the November 2010 general election ballot.

A list of proposed transportation projects this fee increase would fund can be found here.

Other council agenda items include:

– A presentation by a U.S. Postal Service representative on the search for a new downtown location for the Edmonds Post Office.

– An update on Sound Transit activities from Sound Transit staff.

-Discussion and a possible decision on a proposal to return a 1938 Ford fire engine, which has been housed at Fire Station 17, to the Edmonds Fire Safety Foundation.

-An introduction of proposed updates to City of Edmonds State Environmental Policy Act regulations that would increase the “flexible thresholds” — essentially the allowable square footage for construction projects and the accompanying number of permitted parking spaces — along the Medical/Highway 99 Activity Center and the Highway 99 Corridor.

The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers, located in the Public Safety Complex at 250 5th Ave. N. The complete agenda can be found here.

  1. Let’s use some of the funds generated from the additional $40 to increase the resources needed to insure that our sidewalks are more friendly to pedestrians. Too many of our sidewalks are greatly encumbered by vegetation from adjacent properties. City code exists to remedy this, but there’s inadequate manpower applied to making that happen.

  2. An increase from $20 to $60, increased storm water/sewer rates, and a possible City Levy. A School levy, increased Washington State taxes. This time, I am with Mr. Orvis…..let the people decide!

  3. No one likes to see an increase in taxes. At my home, forty dollars is one half of my month’s groceries. While many pundits of this increased fee indicate it is too aggressive, I disagree.

    I am willing to put this option to the voters as I would be willing to pay the additional dollars as I am thinking of our future. The list of projects we will send to the voters will show a priority list that includes sidewalks, a long-awaited round-about and bicycle street signage.

    In the Bernheim proposal, eight projects are for citizen safety. The remaining three 2009 concurrency projects have been changed to a less costly work-around.

    So, in my eyes, kudos for our staff for their thoughtful thinking and to the TBD Commissioners that voted in favor of putting this yearly increase to the voters. We actually saved the city over $2.5 million in developing the work-around for the concurrency projects. So, please, research this funding package: we need to start identifying our safety wants and needs and providing a specific funding mechanisms that is outside of the General Fund and allow voters the choice.

    Yes, forty dollars is a lot for a yearly fee and I hate increased taxes too; but break it down monthly and it is only 3.33 (and I like that number).

  4. I have my doubts about placing a round-about at 5 corners, or anyplace in our city. Round-abouts work well in the U.K. because they are more prevalent than traffic lights, so drivers are well accustomed to them and can negotiate their way thru them. I’ve seen a few tried in Canada, but after several years they’ve been removed – officials eventually gave in to their unpopularity.

    I go thru 5 corners several times a week. Skilled drivers do not seem to have any problems there. The not-so-skilled will have even bigger problems with a round-about.

  5. An increase from $20/year to $60/year is a huge increase, about 200% if my questionable math is accurate. By law, the voters are the only one who can decide on this increase.. Most households have 2 cars, so that is an increase of $120 per year which breaks down to $6.66 per month.
    Not everyone in Edmonds is affluent, and for many this economy has be very difficult. For any citizen who is living on a fixed income, an increase like this can be a hardship. I am not willing to vote for this simply because it is too much, and I fear that this combined with the other items will be a hardship to many of my fellow citizens.

  6. My bad math…it is not an increase of $120 per year in households with two cars. Sorry. It is an increase of $80 per year in households with 2 cars. (Given my math skills, that may or may not be accurate.

  7. I am planning on voting for this, if the council gives me the opportunity. As Diane T. says, this will increase my taxes $80 annually, roughly $6.67 per month, but it’s worth it. Better traffic flow, means that I save time and have to spend less time in a car. Pedestrian safety means I can walk more. Maintained roads saves us money in the future.

    And lastly, I don’t have to worry about this money being siphoned off to some other part of the budget. The transportation benefit board is a separate legal entity that was formed to allow a city to raise money for transportation projects only. The money is protected by law.

  8. @Ron,

    Off the top of my head I can think of 6 roundabouts implemented within WA State within the last 2 years. I am sure there are many I have not yet driven through. Washington drivers will become accustomed to them whether Edmonds has them or not.

  9. Paul:
    Thank you for the worthwhile feedback. Before Edmonds proceeds, those 6 projects should be reviewed to see if they’ve met the objectives for them.

    I will be voting to approve the additional $40 for the reasons you’ve described. It simply comes down to if you can afford the charge, then you should vote for it. If you can’t afford it, then your vote against it is understandable.

  10. “It simply comes down to if you can afford the charge, then you should vote for it. If you can’t afford it, then your vote against it is understandable.”
    Nice of you (who can afford it) to be so understanding to those who cannot. Being able to pay the fees means that if it passes, you will not be making any sacrifices and if it does not, you will be fine. How lovely for you.
    If you cannot afford it, and it passes then you will have to struggle even harder to just exist.
    The arrogance of this is outrageous! It is a 200% increase that we are talking about. There are folks, even in Edmonds (probably not in the Bowl” ) who simply cannot afford that increase and it is those citizens who should be considered first when deciding on such an increase.
    My vote, if it comes to that, against it will not have to do with the merits of the projects it will simply be that I am not willing to vote for such taxes for discretionary spending projects that will burden my fellow citizens who simply cannot afford it.
    I hope this makes it to the ballot.

  11. Having a Transportation Benefits District has its drawbacks, and its…. benefits. The clarity with which this plan was presented was the benefit – easily read and understood, and easy to see the cost of each project proposed.

    The drawback is clearly seeing that, if we want the improvements,we’ll have to pay. I agree with Diane T. that our citizens are rightfully approaching “tax hike fatigue”, but I also agree with Dave that these projects, on the whole, are what our citizens have asked for. Except maybe the 5 Corners roundabout. While that may be a good idea, I’d put that funding aside, as one of the major efforts going on now is to get a re-zone of 5 Corners done, in the hope that such a re-zone attracts the right kind of development. (Note: I’m not saying what that is – the City hasn’t started this effort yet). Seems like it would make sense to wait to do the details of the traffic arrangement until the re-zone is complete.

    The issue should go to the voters. The danger is, the more we hit the voters with these individual raises in taxes (reasonable or not), the more likely we’ll see a voter backlash – and it may end up being something necessary for City services that doesn’t get funded because of it.

    Any ideas of how to reduce “tax hike fatigue” other than to reduce services to an undesirably low level? It’s hard to educate the voters on each of these tax hike issues sufficiently – people are busier than ever, and finances are tighter than ever. Not exactly a recipe for success of this measure. Or any future levy.

  12. According to a snipet on King5 News, there is an expected real estate bubble coming to this area in 2014. Most property owners have seen their property taxes decrease along with the value of their properties. I think that the voters, if given a good, substantial and substantiated reasons ( ie specifically what cuts that will have to be made and why), it is reasonable to think that they would be willing to pay more in property taxes (which would likely be a wash given the lower property values for now). If the increase had a Sunset clause, that would be even more convincing for most, I think. If that bubble happens, then if the increase was slated to sunset in 2015, I believe that would show good will on the part of the City and would be something that voters would understand. I haven’t in my lifetime seen many taxes revert to a previous level, and don’t recall many being levied with a sunset clause in them.
    It would certainly be more rational than a regressive fee that doesn’t have a Sunset clause at all.

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