Revamped fee scheme could fund road work
August 28, 2008 · Updated 10:32 AM
MARYSVILLE County and local officials may be looking to a 20-year-old, apparently largely forgotten fee scheme to help pay for road and traffic projects.
The plan could add anywhere from $20 to $100 to the cost of renewing your cars license tabs. An increase of up to $20 per tab could arrive without voter approval.
State legislators OKd the creation of so-called transportation benefit districts in 1987, Assistant City Engineer Jeff Massie told City Council at their regular meeting last week.
Essentially, district formation allows cities and counties to collect fees on license tabs. Intended to benefit road projects, participating jurisdictions split the proceeds from the tab fees based on population and/or the number of registered vehicles in a given community.
Even though TBDs have been technically possible for roughly two decades, they have not proven very popular. Massie said only a few of the districts exist statewide.
Last year, presumably in a bid to increase implementation of the districts, state lawmakers altered authorizing legislation to allow districts to levy fees of up to $20 per license tab without going to voters. City councils can join forces and create small-sized TBDs, imposing fees on their own.
Fees also could be collected on a countywide level if roughly 60 percent of the city councils in any given county agreed. The TBD would collect fees even in cities where local legislators did not approve formation of the district.
No matter how a TBD is formed, imposing license fees above $20 requires voter approval. According to the states Web site, basic tab fees for non-commercial vehicles are $30. Currently drivers are also paying an additional $3.75 in filing and service fees. Another $4 fee can be added by state sub-agents. Other fees also are possible depending on the type of vehicle being registered.
Massie is serving on the Regional Transportation Investment District, basically the group that would have helped dole out the road project portion of the massive, statewide $18 billion road and transit funding package voters defeated last year.
There is always the possibility the RTID package may go before voters again; state law allows backers to present the issue up to three times. There also is the possibility state legislators could do away with the RTID completely, Massie said. In any case, he added that, both locally and in Olympia, renewed interest in TBDs has followed in the wake of last years RTID vote.
In Snohomish County, Massie said the County Council is at least willing to consider implementation of an area-wide TBD. Following state guidelines, the county is requesting any cities interested in participating in the potential funding mechanism to produce a letter of support no later than February. Cities would then have until May to hash out a TBD agreement, deciding how much of a fee to collect, how to split the proceeds and what projects would be eligible, among other issues.
Last week, Marysville officials seemed at best lukewarm to the idea of a TBD. Still, City Council members asked the administration to draft a letter indicating to county leaders the citys willingness at least to participate in any TBD discussions.
I dont think theres a downside to exploring it, said Public Works Director Paul Roberts. He said it could prove difficult for Marysville to approach legislators for roadwork funding if they dont take part in any talks regarding a TBD. Massie noted Everett officials already have sent the county a letter supporting exploration of a Snohomish TBD. Not counting Marysville, at least four other cities are in some stage of discussion over a TBD.
Among Marysville leaders, Mayor Dennis Kendall expressed concern about the county ending up with a large pot of money over which municipal officials would have little or no control. City Council members expressed various opinions.
Councilwoman Carmen Rasmussen said she did not necessarily like the idea of adopting fees without going to voters. She and other Council members wanted more information on why voters so soundly defeated the RTID package.
Councilman Jeff Seibert questioned whether the various jurisdictions within Snohomish County could come together on a TBD agreement by May. He said just gaining agreement on a project list could prove challenging. Seibert also questioned how much money Marysville might receive.
According to Massie, if the city joined in a TBD collecting $20 per license tab, Marysville would bring home about $650,00 per year. Seibert said officials could certainly find uses for the cash, but he also added the amount was hardly enough to fund a major project.
As for that May TBD deadline, Massie said King and Pierce county officials may be lobbying state legislators for an extension.